Best Audiophile Headphones for Music and Gaming 2024

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When it comes to enjoying music, sound quality is important for everyone. But there’s a type of listener whose ears can discern details, tone, space, and other musical elements to a remarkably high degree. People with golden ears like this are called audiophiles, which literally just means “sound lover.”

But there is more to a pair of headphones that just the crisp, clean sound; there’s also the appearance, the comfort and the portability. We’re going to take a dive into the 11 best sets of headphones the planet has to offer. We’re covering everything from a pair of in-ear monitors to the cream of the crop top-of-the-line headphone meant for the serious listener. Like I’ve always said, if you’re got a head, you should absolutely have a killer pair of headphones.

How We Chose These Audiophile Headphones

We took a deep dive into the seemingly thousands of different headphones the planet has to offer. We took into consideration (first and foremost) the heart stopping sound quality a person wants and needs in a pair of headphones. Then we started thinking about how we would look surrounded by strangers on a train with a pair of industry-leading headphones that not only sounded good, but looked just as good as they sounded - amazing. The last key factor we zeroed in on was the comfort and weight of the headphones we were testing out. You can’t have a great-sounding, good-looking pair of headphones if you feel like you’re wearing a 1960’s football helmet.

Quality of audio. Stylish looks. Total comfort. That’s what we’re talking about!

Here Are Our Picks for the Best Audiophile Headphones of 2024:

  1. Best Audiophile Headphones Overall: Mark Levinson No. 5909 Premium High-Resolution Wireless Adaptive ANC Noise Cancelling Headphone (Pearl Black)
  2. Best Sounding Headphones: Sennheiser HD 800S Studio Professional Over-Ear Headphones (Black)
  3. Best Audiophile Headphones with Noise Cancellation: Focal Bathys Over-Ear Hi-Fi Bluetooth Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancelation
  4. Best Closed Back Audiophile Headphones: Focal Stellia Closed-Back Circum-Aural Over-Ear Headphones (Cognac)
  5. Best High End Open Back Headphones: Focal Utopia High-Fidelity Over-Ear Open-Back Headphones (2022)
  6. Best Audiophile In Ear Headphones: Sennheiser IE 900 Wired In-Ear Monitor Headphones
  7. Best Audiophile In Ear Headphones: Sennheiser IE 600 Wired In-Ear Monitor Headphones

Best Audiophile Headphones Overall

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Mark Levinson No. 5909 Premium High-Resolution Wireless Adaptive ANC Noise Cancelling Headphone (Pearl Black)

Regular price $999.00
Sale price $999.00 Regular price
Save $-999.00 (%)
  • Dimensions: 7.9" x 8.1" x 2.6" 
  • Weight: 0.75 lbs 
  • Battery: Lithium-Ion 
  • Battery Capacity: 750 mAh/3.7V 
  • Warranty: 2 years parts and labor 
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Mark Levinson is one of the most recognizable and trusted names in high-performance audio components. The 5909 Hi-Resolution Wireless Adaptive ANC Noise Cancelling Headphone is a prime example of the quality and attention to every single tiny detail you’d expect from such a prolific brand. 

If you’re not familiar with ANC, it stands for Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation. This technology uses a combination of microphones and speakers to reduce background noise and other noises surrounding the listener. The result is an uncompromised listening experience without the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life going on around you. 

Did the phone just ring? The 5909 also has a built-in microphone with Smart Wind Adaption designed to block out the sounds of air passing over the microphone on your morning commute or a harsh wind blowing over the microphone on your walk through the city to work. 

The drivers in the 5909 are an expertly tuned 40 mm Beryllium Coated driver that are acoustically optimized to the HARMAN curve. The headphones themselves boast an acoustic response of up to 40kHz and are equipped with Bluetooth 5.1. There is also an Ambient Aware mode which allows the outside noise to come in so you can have a conversation with someone near you without having to remove the headphones. 

The 5909 has a premium leather headband over top of an anodized aluminum frame. There are replaceable ear cushions, and the ear cups themselves are painted with an automotive-grade metallic paint. The battery life is out of this world and will play for 30 hours with ANC enabled… that’s over a full day of listening to your favorite music and podcasts. Once the battery runs out, you can get a 6-hour play time charge in only 15 minutes. That’s quite a rundown of features for what we can confidently say is the best audiophile wireless headphones on the market. 

Included with the 5909 is a hard-shell carrying case, and assortment of cabling for audio and power, a handful of adapters and a microfiber polishing cloth. 

Pros: Massive Battery Life for long-term listening. Noise cancellation technology. 

Cons: The controls are very basic “on the cup” style.

Best Sounding Headphones

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Sennheiser HD 800S Studio Professional Over-Ear Headphones (Black)

Regular price $1,387.88
Sale price $1,387.88 Regular price
$1,799.95 Save $412.07 (23%)
  • Impedance: 300 Ω
  • Audio-XLR connector: XLR4
  • Ear coupling: Circumaural
  • Jack plug: 6.3mm/ XLR4
  • Cable length: 3m
  • Weight w/o cable: 330 g
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Sennheiser is a name that’s been associated with top tier headphones for over 75 years. Their commitment to excellence in the audio industry is unparalleled. They are often considered to be the headphone manufacturer that all other headphones are measured against. The HD800S is no exception to the previous statement.

The HD800S weigh in at under three-quarters of a pound but these reference class open-back audiophile headphones pack the punch of heavyweight sound quality. The HD800S uses a high-performance transducer with phenomenal audio extensions and that’s just one element of the HD 800 S and its sound reproduction system.

After placing a pair of HD 800 S over your ears, it’s made abundantly clear that these headphones are built for comfort, which is exactly what you’ll need because it’s not easy to take these beauties off once the play button is pressed. They are ergonomically designed and sport an adjustable metal headband, microfiber ear and headband padding on key contact points alongside an inner damping element for maximum comfort.

Now, let’s have a talk about the electronics behind the HD 800 S. They have an incredibly low impedance of 300 ohms which allows for magnificent audio reproduction of the highest highs and the lowest lows. The acoustic absorber system prevents frequency masking for a completely unheard-of sound detail delivering a very natural and spatial listening experience. All of the attention to detail, both sonically and from a comfort perspective, make these our best sounding headphones.

Packaged with the HD 800S are two cables, 1/8” and 1/4” and a microfiber cleaning cloth for keeping them as pristine as they were the minute the box was opened. These headphones are perfect while out in the world or immersed in your own world in the comfort of your home.

Pros: Great headphones at a great price. Classic manufacturing.

Cons:No carrying case.

Best Audiophile Headphones with Noise Cancellation

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Focal Bathys Over-Ear Hi-Fi Bluetooth Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancelation

Regular price $699.00
Sale price $699.00 Regular price
Save $-699.00 (%)
  • Type: Circum-aural, closed-back headphones
  • Frequency Response: 15Hz – 22kHz
  • Speaker Driver: 15/86" (40mm) Aluminum-Magnesium ‘M’-shaped dome
  • Weight: .77lbs
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Focal headphones are a statement piece; they stand out visually just as much as they do audibly. And the Bathys are no exception. They are both fashionable and functional. Making the Bathys travel-friendly was a primary concern for Focal. They had a target weight of 350g, so components were designed and decided on specifically for that point. The Bathys are made with a Black/Silver aluminum and magnesium construction and have been designed to share the same aesthetics as their fellow Focal closed-ear headphones, like the Celestee or Stellia.

For the sound, they chose to invest in magnesium for the driver and then use aluminum mechanical construction. The Bathys are tuned to the Focal sound so the naturally are dynamic. They reproduce a nice full sound and when the bass hits it’s present but not too boomy. You can listen to them for hours at end without feeling ear fatigue. However, you don’t have to listen to them loud to enjoy them.

Technologically, the Bathys are Bluetooth 5.1 with multipoint (meaning it can connect to multiple devices so you can pick up a call from your phone and listen to music from your computer) and they’ve moved to some of the latest Bluetooth Codecs. The Bathys have the standard SBC connection (which is universal among Bluetooth headphones), AAC for iPhone connectivity, and AptX as well as AptX Adaptive for Android devices (with AptX Adaptive being capable of up to 24bit/96kHz sources). The Bathys have 8 microphones for their Active Noise Canceling and they can be used for phone calls or virtual meetings. There (4) mics per ear cup. (1) for Bluetooth. (1) for ANC and (2) set inside to monitor the output of headphones to reduce total harmonic distortion per ear cup.

The Bathys are an exceptional set of Bluetooth headphones and sound great wirelessly. But if you want to be extra, Focal created a DAC mode. Just connect the Bathys to your phone or computer via a USB-C cable, and you can listen to music up to 24bit/192kHz. Focal wanted to make sure they weren’t just making one of the best Bluetooth headphones on the market, but they wanted to make sure the Bathys didn’t disappoint if you went deep into listening to them.

Best Closed Back Audiophile Headphones

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Focal Stellia Closed-Back Circum-Aural Over-Ear Headphones (Cognac)

Regular price $2,999.00
Sale price $2,999.00 Regular price
Save $-2,999.00 (%)
  • Type: Circum-aural closed-back headphones
  • Impedance: 35 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 106dB SPL/1mW @ 1kHz
  • THD: 0.1% @ 1kHz/100dB SPL
  • Frequency response: 5Hz - 40kHz
  • Loudspeaker: 1.6" pure Beryllium M shape dome
  • Weight: 0.96 lbs.
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Unless you’ve been hibernating for the last 40 years you know that Focal is an industry leader in high-end audio. Speaking of high-end audio, check out what we consider to be easily the best closed back audiophile headphones we’ve tested. With the Focal Stellia Over-Ear Headphones, the listener can now bring their classic home theater audio directly over their ears with a beautiful pair of headphones that weighs in at under 1 pound.

These everything-but-over-the-top stylish headphones have full grain leather ear cups with more than 1 inch of memory foam for total comfort. The matching head band secures the headphones to the listener's head and the Cognac finish solid aluminum yoke ergonomically contours to your face shape. But enough about how sensational these headphones look, let’s get down to the best part… the sound.

Behind the ear cup you’ll find a full-range 1 9/16” Beryllium dome speaker driver with a very low impedance of 35 Ohms. This makes the Stellia a no-brainer for use with a portable audiophile audio player on the go. Their frameless voice coil, combined with the properties of Beryllium, results in crystal clear reproduction of the tiniest details at both very high and very low frequencies.

The Stellia is packaged with a 4-foot unbalanced cable that fans out to (2) 1/8” stereo jacks which make it even more of a no-brainer for listening at home.

The carrying case that ships with the Stellia is small and lightweight and a perfect complement to these already perfect headphones.

Pros: Lightweight. Comfortable.

Cons: Wired only, no Bluetooth option. A hefty price tag for a colossal pair of headphones.

Best High End Open Back Headphones

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Focal Utopia High-Fidelity Over-Ear Open-Back Headphones (2022)

Regular price $4,999.00
Sale price $4,999.00 Regular price
Save $-4,999.00 (%)
  • Type: Circum-aural, open-back headphones
  • Impedance: 80 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 104dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz
  • THD: <0.2 % @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 50kHz
  • Speaker Driver: 19/16" (40mm) pure beryllium 'M'-shaped dome
  • Weight: 1.08lbs (490g)
  • Carrying Case Dimensions: 9.8” x 9.4” x 4.7”
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Focal’s Utopia headphones are not your best go-to headphones for portable use. These are designed for the listener who might want to sit down with their favorite record and enjoy the listening experience with no interruptions. Made in France and backed by over 40 years of sound passion and innovation, the Utopia headphone returns with a reworked design from their 2016 introduction. Additional improvements have been made to the overall sound quality to make a giant leap in quality to command the respect of the most serious audiophile.

The Utopia is loaded for bear with a set of full range speaker drivers with pure Beryllium “M”-shaped dome which are open at the back to offer near perfect duplication of the source material. The tireless engineering squad at Focal have also created a copper and aluminum voice coil for a revamped sound signature and incredible reliability and makes the Utopia the best high-end open back headphones.

After several hours of listening time these headphones will begin to “break-in” or open up. If you want to speed up the process of breaking the Utopias in, you can run very bass heavy music through them for 24 hours at a fairly loud volume. They need time to push and pull in order to stabilize the speaker drivers to get the absolute most out of the headphones.

The comfort of the Utopia headphones is not to be trifled with. The headband is made of genuine leather and the earpads are made from a perforated memory foam, and the ear pads are also leather bound – these things are soft and comfortable and weighing it at just a touch over 1 pound are designed for long haul listening without the listener fatigue of other headphones.

In the box you’ll find 2 cables, a 4-pin XLR cable and a TRS style connector as well as a quarter-inch adapter for connection to your Hi-Fi system at home. There is also a hard-back carrying case for safe and easy transport of the Utopias. An optional headphone stand is also available from Focal so you can display these at home like you would a piece of art, and that’s exactly what these headphones are.

Pros: Focal’s Flagship Pair of headphones. Attention to design and sound quality are unrivaled.

Cons: The high price point could deter some shoppers.

Best Audiophile In Ear Headphones

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Sennheiser IE 900 Wired In-Ear Monitor Headphones

Regular price $1,199.95
Sale price $1,199.95 Regular price
$1,499.95 Save $300.00 (20%)
  • Transducer principle: Single Dynamic Driver, Pressure Chamber
  • Frequency response: 4 – 46,500 Hz
  • Ear coupling: Ear Canal
  • Sound pressure level (SPL): 118 dB at 1 kHz, 1 Vrms
  • Total harmonic distortion (THD): <0.06% (1 kHz, 94 dB)
  • Cable length: 125 cm
  • Connector: Fidelity (+) MMCX
  • Impedance: 18 Ω system impedance
  • Attenuation: 25dB
  • Article number (SKU): 508948
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Have you just spent all morning getting ready for work and getting every single detail of your hair looking just perfect? Do you want to fire up some tunes on the commute in to work, but don’t want your time preening to go to waste by throwing a pair of over the ear headphones on? Sennheiser has a couple of options for in-ear headphones that sound, feel and perform just as great as a traditional set of headphones.

Introducing the IE 600 and IE 900 headphones. We’ll start off with chatting about the IE 600’s and then make our way up the mountain to the IE 900’s.

The IE600 Wired In-Ear Monitor Headphones are comprised of an Ultra-Resilient ZR01 amorphous metal housing and utilize two 7mm TrueResponse transducers. These transducers are assembled by Sennheiser and they are built for the long haul. The production of the amorphous metal housing is completed by both machine and manual steps in a plant in Germany. The result of the careful manufacturing is a pair of IE 600 headphones that will remain in near perfect condition year after year of use. The IE 600 headphones have a robust protection against corrosion and scuffs and dings from wear. These headphones are designed to keep delivering amazing sonic – and visual – joy for many, many years.

We’ve tried these out and not only do they sound incredible, but their comfort is off the charts. Included with the IE 600’s are two different styles of ear bud tips, both silicone and memory foam, and they are provided in three different styles to make a comfortable seal in the ear. The ear hooks themselves are flexible and have some adjustments to ensure long-lasting comfort. The IE600 is quite possibly the best audiophile in-ear headphones we’ve seen, and we have seen A LOT.

Included in the box with the IE 600’s are both a balanced and unbalanced para-aramid reinforced cable with a 4.4mm and 3.5mm connector, respectively. There is also a balanced para-aramid reinforced cable with a 4.4mm connector. Another nice touch by Sennheiser is a serial numbered carrying case and a presentation box with a signed customer certificate as well as user manuals.

Next, let’s look at the IE 900’s. The IE 900’s physical characteristics are that unlike the IE 600’s these are made of a precision-milled and anodized aluminum housing. A five-axis CNC machine precision cuts each housing individually out of a solid block of aluminum. Once the aluminum is anodized the housing of the IE900’s are super resistant to showing signs of wear and corrosion. On top of that, the drivers in every pair of IE 900’s sold are matched during the manufacturing process to eliminate variance, which provides a totally accurate soundstage.

A huge point of separation between the IE 600’s and the IE 900’s is that the IE 900’s utilize what is referred to as and Acoustic Back Volume. What is that, you’re asking? It’s a small chamber within a chamber that Sennheiser has tuned to separate the low frequency and the mid-range frequency. The back volume helps to achieve a clear and natural sound signature by controlling the direction of the overall volume as it flows through the transducer system. The result of this is a very consistent and disciplined bass and mid-range listening experience.

Comfortable? Comfortable. Included with the IE 900 headphones are silicone ear adapters as well as three different elastic ear adapter sets in three different sizes. The “what’s in the box” for the IE 900’s is almost exactly the same as the IE 600’s except for one BIG difference. There is a balanced 4.4mm (quarter-inch) cable included for a connection to a hi-fi system in the home. Why have the best headphones in your ears and not be able to utilize them in your home system? Yeah, Sennheiser thought of that too.

Pros: Carefully designed headphones priced for all audiences.

Cons: Wired headphones are looked down on in favor of Bluetooth.

Best Audiophile In Ear Headphones

Product Image

Sennheiser IE 600 Wired In-Ear Monitor Headphones

Regular price $549.95
Sale price $549.95 Regular price
$799.95 Save $250.00 (31%)
  • Transducer principle: Single Dynamic Driver, Pressure Chamber
  • Frequency response: 4 – 46,500 Hz
  • Ear coupling: Ear Canal
  • Sound pressure level (SPL): 118 dB at 1 kHz, 1 Vrms
  • Total harmonic distortion (THD): <0.06% (1 kHz, 94 dB)
  • Cable length: 125 cm
  • Connector: Fidelity (+) MMCX
  • Impedance: 18 Ω system impedance
  • Attenuation: 25dB
SHOP NOW

Have you just spent all morning getting ready for work and getting every single detail of your hair looking just perfect.? Do you want to fire up some tunes on the commute in to work, but don’t want your time preening to go to waste by throwing a pair of over the ear headphones on? Sennheiser has a couple of options for in-ear headphones that sound, feel and perform just as great as a traditional set of headphones.

Introducing the IE 600 and IE 900 headphones. We’ll start off with chatting about the IE 600’s and then make our way up the mountain to the IE 900’s.

The IE600 Wired In-Ear Monitor Headphones are comprised of an Ultra-Resilient ZR01 amorphous metal housing and utilize two 7mm TrueResponse transducers. These transducers are assembled by Sennheiser and they are built for the long haul. The production of the amorphous metal housing is completed by both machine and manual steps in a plant in Germany. The result of the careful manufacturing is a pair of IE 600 headphones that will remain in near perfect condition year after year of use. The IE 600 headphones have a robust protection against corrosion and scuffs and dings from wear. These headphones are designed to keep delivering amazing sonic – and visual – joy for many, many years.

We’ve tried these out and not only do they sound incredible, but their comfort is off the charts. Included with the IE 600’s are two different styles of ear bud tips, both silicone and memory foam, and they are provided in three different styles to make a comfortable seal in the ear. The ear hooks themselves are flexible and have some adjustments to ensure long-lasting comfort. The IE600 is quite possibly the best audiophile in-ear headphones we’ve seen, and we have seen A LOT.

Included in the box with the IE 600’s are both a balanced and unbalanced para-aramid reinforced cable with a 4.4mm and 3.5mm connector, respectively. There is also a balanced para-aramid reinforced cable with a 4.4mm connector. Another nice touch by Sennheiser is a serial numbered carrying case and a presentation box with a signed customer certificate as well as user manuals.

Next, let’s look at the IE 900’s. The IE 900’s physical characteristics are that unlike the IE 600’s these are made of a precision-milled and anodized aluminum housing. A five-axis CNC machine precision cuts each housing individually out of a solid block of aluminum. Once the aluminum is anodized the housing of the IE900’s are super resistant to showing signs of wear and corrosion. On top of that, the drivers in every pair of IE 900’s sold are matched during the manufacturing process to eliminate variance, which provides a totally accurate soundstage.

A huge point of separation between the IE 600’s and the IE 900’s is that the IE 900’s utilize what is referred to as and Acoustic Back Volume. What is that, you’re asking? It’s a small chamber within a chamber that Sennheiser has tuned to separate the low frequency and the mid-range frequency. The back volume helps to achieve a clear and natural sound signature by controlling the direction of the overall volume as it flows through the transducer system. The result of this is a very consistent and disciplined bass and mid-range listening experience.

Comfortable? Comfortable. Included with the IE 900 headphones are silicone ear adapters as well as three different elastic ear adapter sets in three different sizes. The “what’s in the box” for the IE 900’s is almost exactly the same as the IE 600’s except for one BIG difference. There is a balanced 4.4mm (quarter-inch) cable included for a connection to a hi-fi system in the home. Why have the best headphones in your ears and not be able to utilize them in your home system? Yeah, Sennheiser thought of that too.

Pros: Carefully designed headphones priced for all audiences.

Cons: Wired headphones are looked down on in favor of Bluetooth.

Considerations When Buying Headphones

When are they really that important? Let’s provide a few examples.

  1. Your child has just fallen asleep after a challenging morning of “Baby Shark” and “no” “no” no”. You’ve got a few minutes to sit and get lost in some tunes. Put your favorite song on either your Hi-Fi system or even your phone, plug in and tune out.
  2. You’ve got a full night’s sleep before a big meeting at work. You just got to the train station, and you need to dive into that “pump me up” mix you’ve spent months, if not years, curating. A good pair of headphones and high-quality audio are just what you need to get pumped up! It’s going to be a great day.
  3. You’ve got your New Years Resolution and you’re going to stick to it this time. The problem is the basement gym is quiet and leaves you alone with nothing but the already-defeated thoughts racing through your head. Those thoughts are telling you that it’s impossible. Enter a top-quality pair of headphones. Queue up your favorite album and put your headphones in your ears and what seemed like an eternity of working out in silence has now passed by it what seems like minutes thanks to a good pair of headphones.
  4. You love music. You want to listen to music. Throw in a great pair of headphones and… You guessed it, LISTEN TO MUSIC.

You’re looking for a few key points when making the investment in a pair of headphones. First off, they need to sound good. Not just good, but like… good good. Great even. Don’t settle for a comfortable pair of headphones just because they’re comfortable, and don’t settle for a different pair of headphones just because they sound great. Get the best of both worlds! Treat yourself to a wonderful sounding pair of headphones that are built for the long haul for comfort. Make the investment once, and never look back. After all, you deserve it.

What sets and a pair of audiophile headphones apart from consumer level headphones? The criteria aren’t that much different for any headphones at any level. But here are the things that you should look for in a pair of headphones to get that audio file experience.

Build quality

Headphones are the most important piece of equipment in your music system, and their build quality should reflect that. All of the headphones and in-ear headphones in this guide meet our very picky standards for construction and design.

Earpad comfort

Earpads matter, because you’re going to spend a lot of time with these things on or in your ears. Comfort is king here, but ear pads have surprisingly little effect on the sound quality of your music. All things being equal, go with what feels right — literally.

Wireless verses wired

It may have been true in the past that the best way to listen to music was only with wired headphones. It's not true anymore. We've got examples of wireless headphones with audio quality that is definitely audiophile level.

Noise-cancelling headphones

Noise-cancelling technology has also improved immensely in recent years. Why have reference-level headphones in an environment that is too noisy to be able to hear the full frequency range? Well, we've got the some noise-cancelling headphones in this guide that will block out the distractions and still give you an audiophile listening experience.

Open back versus closed back

The biggest decision you’ll have to make is whether to choose an open back design or a closed back design.

Here are some of the reasons that audiophiles love open back designs:

  • Excellent and natural soundstage
  • Sound doesn’t reflect or bounce around in ear cups

Because the audio passes through the ear pads, open back headphones are best used in a private, quiet environment, and not a noisy café or workplace.

Here are some of the reasons that audiophiles love closed back designs:

  • They keep external sound out
  • They keep the sound in so it doesn’t disturb people around you
  • They can have a more private, immersive feeling

Drivers

Drivers are the features that get talked about the most with audiophile headphones. Here’s are the three main types you'll encounter, and what makes them tick:

Dynamic drivers are the most common type of speaker driver with headphones. As the voltage comes in over your audio cable, it moves a magnet over a voice coil, which is attached to the speaker dome or cone, which vibrates.

Planar magnetic drivers can be less expensive. These employ two sets of magnets with a sheet of material between them that produces the vibration that goes to your ears.

Electrostatic drivers tend to be rare, and more expensive. They use static electricity to drive the cones, rather than magnetic energy.

The goal for each of these designs is ultimately the same, which is to give you remarkably clear sound in the natural sound stage. Some audio companies put a lot of R&D into innovating new designs, and these tend to be in the planar magnetic category. We’ve got excellent examples of all of these driver types in this guide.

Will your headphones need a separate amplifier?

Whether or not your existing amplifier can adequately power your headphones is a question you can we can easily help answer for you. It’s a factor of the frequency response, the impedance, and the sound pressure level (SPL), efficiency, or sensitivity of the headphones. A general rule of thumb is that if your headphones have a sensitivity of 100 db or over, then any headphone amplifier built into a stereo system can adequately power them. If the sensitivity is less than 100 db however, you may need a dedicated amplifier.

Distortion

This is an interesting specification when it comes to headphones. Just considering the physics of headphones, distortion is simply a part of how headphones work. It’s inevitable, which is why it’s usually included in any list of specs. But that doesn’t mean that your music will sound distorted! Far from it. What’s really important to you as an audiophile music fan is that you want level of distortion that is considered reference quality, which is expressed as THD of less than 0.1%.

Sound quality

This is certainly a subjective topic, but when you start talking about audiophile gear, there are things that we recommend you listen for as you test headphones with music that you’re familiar with:

  • The highs should be present but not call attention to the sounds in that range. We like to say the highs should be sparkly or glittery, depending on the type of music.
  • Does the midrange seem human and natural? That’s our general rule of thumb.
  • The bass response should be effortless, and clean.

The type of music you listen to may very well require a different set of criteria, but in our experience, these are the qualities that most audiophile headsets offer.

Do headphones matter? You bet they do. The sets in this guide are all examples of audiophile headphones of the highest quality. A decision to invest in a set of audiophile headphones is a big one — but we’re here to help you. Pick up the phone and call us, and one of our in-house experts will be very happy to help you decide which set of audiophile headphones is going to help you focus on the music that you love.

One more thing...

While many people have an attitude of "you pay your money, you take your chances" when it comes to purchasing headphones, you can afford to have higher expectations than that. Our advice is to buy your next pair of headphones from a trusted dealer, whether it's us or another retailer with whom you have a relationship. And the more experience and longer the track record, the better. A good dealer will take care of you in the event anything happens, and more importantly, they'll give you advice you can count on so that you'll purchase the right headphones the first time.

Speaking of trusted dealers…

World Wide Stereo is home to some 90+ industry-leading audio/video professionals who love what they do, and talking about it, too. We opened our doors in 1979, gained a small yet diehard following, won a slew of national awards for everything from killer car audio installations to customer service, grew the business online… and today we enjoy a faithful following of like-minded TV-watching, music-listening, gear-loving defenders of fun for the whole family. Our only rule: no one leaves unhappy. We’re brutally honest when it comes to this stuff. Want to know if something is as good as advertised? Even if you're shopping somewhere else? Call us or stop by one of our showrooms — we’ll give it to you straight. We love what we do, and we love sharing that love.

With us, you get our guarantee, which includes perks like free shipping, 60-day returns, and support even years after the sale — always. Hence our rule: "no one leaves unhappy." Ever.

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