In creating this headphone buyers guide, we seek to answer the one question we I get asked more than any other. What headphones should I buy? My response is always the same. I don't know. There are so many factors that make a headphone right for one person or another. How much do you have to spend on headphones? Are you going to be using the headphones for commuting? What type of music do you listen to? Are you wanting headphones for music or headphones for TV and movies? Headphones are like tools. A pocket knife might be great for opening letters but you are going to have a crappy time felling a tree with one. Similarly, different headphones will work better in certain situations.
That said I want to give you a starting point. Basically, where I would start if I was looking for the perfect set of headphones at any given price point. I would consider myself fairly normal in the way I use my headphones. I like to be able to take them with me when on the go, I prefer to use them direct from my phone or DAP (Digital Audio Player) rather than bulky external amps. I am relatively anal about sound quality and I want a lot of bang for my buck. The music I listen to varies wildly spanning classical and jazz, through rock right into pounding industrial electro so I also prioritise versatility in my headphone choices.
Now bare in mind that below are only my suggestions tinted by my own preference and bias to the question, what headphones should I buy? If you feel none of them fit your needs or you have any questions in mind whatsoever leave me a comment bellow stating:
- your budget,
- your taste in music
- how you intend to use them
I will keep an eye on this thread and try to answer questions as fast as possible with a response more tailored to your specific needs. However, without further ado lets get on with this list.
Headphones under $100
House Of Marley Liberate XL
House of Marley brought can still be considered a fairly new headphone brand but if your on a budget and don't want to sacrafice too much on perfromance its hard to look past the stunning liberate XL. Stellar build quality, good looks and rich sound suited for rock, pop and hip-hop make them one of the best all round headphones under $100 right now.
Sony MDR-7506 - Studio Monitor Headphones
Sony's 7506 studio monitors come with a pedigree. The latest in the line of Sony's affordable studio monitors are constantly praised for their detailed and balanced sound. Designed to be a workhorse in the studio and out the 7506 are virtually indistructable. In fact theres a good chance that these headphones were used somewhere during the production of your music such as is their popularity in many production studios around the world.
Audio Technica ATH-M50x
Incredibly popular amongst audiophiles and headphone enthusiasts alike its impossible to not mention these in a list of the best headphones. Detailed and balanced sound with a low end punch have are paired with good looks and impeccable build. The come in a variety of colours and are readily available for purchase on the highstreet. Just like the Sony MDR-7506 these have studio pedigree and are built to last.
Superlux HD-681 Evo - Best Budget Headphone
We reviewed the Superlux HD-681 Evo last year and were blown away that you can get this much headphone for such a low price. If you consider yourself and audiophile on a budget then don't look past these. The sound is spacious and detailed offering listeners a level of clarity that is often unheard of for under $100 let alone under $50. Build quality is only ok, at this price you have to make compromises but we have had our set going on 18months now and haven't found a fault yet.
Grado SR80e - Cheap Audiophile Grade Headphones
True audiophile headphones under $100? If you haven't heard of Grado before you might have been living under a rock. A fan favourite for decades the Grado SR80 headphones represent jaw-dropping value. These open back headphones are well made and have iconic styling that will get you an approving nod from anyone in the know.
Best Headphones under $300 - 2016
Master & Dynamic MH30 - Ultra Stylish Headphones
We reviewed the Master and Dynamic MH30 earlier this year and quickly declared in one of the best headphones of 2016. A ground up design the Master & Dynamic are as stunning to look at as they are to listen to. Warm and detailed mids with a nice low end bump means that they work well with almost any genre of music. Build quality is like no other and the styling is just phenomenal. A relatively new company they have managed to make a big splash and blur the line between audiophile and designer headphones.
Grado SR225e - Best Headphones for Rock under $300
The Grado SR80e are great headphones but the Grado SR225e is just a little bit better in every regard and still a bargain at $200 right now. You get a tweaked driver and cup design paired with a set of Grado's L pads for increased comfort. The sound is mid focussed making it a must have for lovers of rich vocals and these headphones make any time of Rock music sing to their full potential. Its the same classic design but just a little bit more refined than the 80's for not much more cash.
Beyerdynamic T51i - Strong Mids, Deep Tight Bass
A fixed feature on almost any headphone buyers guide is Beyerdynamics workhorse the T51. Exceptional build quality paired with a crystal clear and highly detailed sound means it has became a favourite headphone for audiophiles on the go. A 3 button inline remote is included making them perfect for using with Iphones and other smartphones. These headphones whilst not using noise cancelling technology are still excellent isolators making them perfect for traveling. The design looks cool and when you get them in hand you realise they are built like tanks and will easily take all the punishment you can throw at them.
Hifiman HE400s - Entry Level Hifi Headphones
Hifiman are one of the old guard of the premium headphone market and their line has gone under some serious revision to help them stay relevant in an ever growing marketplace. The HE400s are amazing value for money. Planar magnetic technology at a palatable price point and they are easily driven and sound great out almost any smartphone or portable device. At 350g they are incredibly light on the head and circum-aural ear-cups further add to comfort. Sound wise its extreme clarity and large soundstage with crystal clear highs and pleasingly weighty lows for an open back headphone..
Best Headphones Under $500 - 2016
Sennheiser HD700 - Stellar Sound Quality
The Sennheiser HD800 are often cited as one of the best headphones on the planet but the HD700 offers a lot of those features at a more wallet-friendly price. Featuring a flat frequency response with a nice touch of warmth the HD700 are the perfect headphones for all day listening. The open back circum-aural design is incredibly comfortable and build quality is second to none. These are seriously premium headphones when it comes to sound and will reveal a tonne of detail in your music that you may not have heard before when coming up from lesser models.
Bose QC35 Noise Canceling Headphones - Hooray for the Sound of Silence
Bose are masters of the noise cancelling headphone genre and the new QC35 builds on its predecessor the QC25 to further strenghten their grip on the marketplace. If you are sombody who travels a lot or uses their headphones in environments where external noise can be distracting then the QC35 are definetley for you. We found that with the noise canceling technology turned on we were completley isolated from the outside world. Battery life is great and the sound quality is a vast improvment over the somewhat muddy QC25 model.
Oppo PM-3 - The First Closed Planar Magnetic headphones
Planar magnetic technology that sounds this good usually commands a premium only a few are willing to pay. Oppo set the bar high when they entered the planar magnetic headphone space in 2014 with the PM-2 and the PM-3 are essentially the same headphone tweaked to be used in a close back shell. Incredibly detailed and suited to work with any genre of music we think the Oppo PM-3 are one of the most versatile headphones on this list.
Beyerdynamic T90 - True Audiophile Grade Cans
Beyerdynamic makes its second appearance on the list with this premium headphone designed for home use. Few companies do headphones as well as Beyerdynamic and it really shows in T90. These headphones utilises the companies patented Tesla technology and produces a true to life accurate sond reproduction. Soundstage is large and there is incredible stereo imaging. The T90 are also the most comfortable headphone on this list due to generous use of velvet microfibre on the earpads and headband. Handcrafted in germany these headphones are built to withstand years of lengthy listening sessions.
Parrot Zik 3 - Hi-Spec & High-Tech
32 bit audio processing, bluetooth 3.0, noise canceling and touch controls. Parrots new Zik 3.0 headphones are on of the most advanced headphones on the market right now. These wireless headphones offer some serious competition for Bose. Incredible build quality and the smart use of leathers and metals make them look every bit as good as they sound. Sonically you get smooth mids and treble paired with a weighty low end. Available in a range of colors and with a playback time of 18 hours from a single charge the Parrot Zik 3.0 is one of the best noise cancelling headphones for people on the move.