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Listening Pleasure: 17 Best Hi-Fi Headphones for Audiophiles

The land of top-tier headphones is rife with pretenders to the throne. If the audio manufacturers spent half as much money on research and development as they do on building hype, they wouldn’t need to spin their products. Instead we’re stuck getting sub-standard gear with big names that doesn’t actually make our listening experience any better.

In this world of bluster and white noise, finding the few premium headphones that could actually do the job well is a challenge. There’s endless comparing and contrasting necessary, while checking a whole range of EQ setups just to determine what has the broadest range and can give you the most boom, whistle, thump, whine, bump, and bang for your audio buck. The answer is in the 17 most elite high-end headphones around.

Sennheiser HD 598

via head-fi.org
via head-fi.org

Easily the most you can get for the money, the HD 598 is a revamped Sennheiser design that is meant to turn heads, catch eyes, and still provide as much comfort and extensive sound as anything with double or triple the expense. Light as a sonata with a 3.5mm jack, these are greatness, to go. Purchase: $150

Sennheiser Momentum 2.0

via hispotion.com
via hispotion.com

A nice folding design allows these to be stashed in your desk or carry-on bag, while the earcups are spacious and comfortable for long-term wearing. These blow the original Momentum out of the water, while adding a few bells and whistles along the way. Purchase: $165

Avantone MP1 Mixphones

via bax-shop.fr
via bax-shop.fr

Comfortable padding throughout and a fairly light build combine with a fair price thanks to the relative anonymity of Avantone. The true tale to tell here is the ability to switch and swap modes, coming up with mixes and melds that give you precision studio audio that provides specialty tweaking for the real connoisseur. Purchase: $199

Audio Technica ATH-MSR7

via ilounge.com
via ilounge.com

Good for listening, good for phone calls, and overall a joy to hear, the ATH-MSR7 doesn’t falter in sound quality. Instead, the two issues that plague it are weight and the fact that the sound reproduction is so clear you end up hearing faults and flaws in the recording, making them rough for MP3 playback. Make no mistake, those caveats are not dealbreakers, but notes to have in your pocket before you buy. Purchase: $249

Grado Prestige Series SR325e

via thegadgetflow.com
via thegadgetflow.com

Love ‘em or hate ‘em the SR325e are a “try before you buy” experience. The mids and highs are sublime and work with every kind of audio out there, but the bass tends to be a little thin on the ground. The big issue is with the dense foam earcups that aren’t everyone’s idea of easy listening. Purchase: $280

Bose QuietComfort 35

via forbes.com
via forbes.com

You can go with the QuietComfort 25 and be quite satisfied, as they are lighter than these and thus better suited for travel and mobile wear. What they don’t have is the same dense sound cancelling technology that come with the 35. Bottom line: If you want supreme quality with the ultimate in noise cancellation, these are for you. If you don’t need to block out absolutely everything, get the 25. Purchase: $349

Bowers & Wilkins P7

via forums.vr-zone.com
via forums.vr-zone.com

These made the cut solely because of the outstanding longevity and ability of the end user to swap out the earpads and cables to enhance comfort and listening to suit their needs. Able to block out most ambient noise without active noise cancellation features, take on the rigors of tough travel, and concoct a concert of accurate sounds in a portable-friendly design, the P7 isn’t king of the hill, but a worthy companion for the rough road ahead. Purchase: $350

Oppo PM-3

via digitaltrends.com
via digitaltrends.com

Planar magnetic headphones with a closed back design intended to be left at home or taken wherever you may roam, the PM-3 from Oppo are magic in a box. They look great, feel good for hours, and can’t be beat by any closed model at a comparable price. The sound isolation is superb and shuts out engine noise, kids, screaming spouses, snoring, and probably carpet bombing. Purchase: $399

Sennheiser HD-700

via son-video.com
via son-video.com

Doused with digital transparency, the HD 700 stands out from the crowd in that it can turn compressed recordings – such as MP3s – into something nearly as beautiful as an analog turntable. Like an open book, the expansive music stage envelopes you. Our sole concern is the plastic parts and resultant longevity. Purchase: $419

HiFiMan HE-400i

via reddit.com
via reddit.com

Here’s where to spend your money if you love bass, but know that Beats are actually garbage. The clear, open-backed design hits highs and mids perfectly, but it adds a little more to the lower end than you typically find in a set of premium headphones. The cord’s a little short for headbanging, which is too bad, because these make you want to. Purchase: $420

Beyerdynamic T90

via head-fi.org
via head-fi.org

We’ll never get tired of seeing Tesla’s technology come back to satisfy us again and again. The T90s use magnetic flux tech under the hood to provide accurate sound and staging that is deep, complex, and immersive. Dense and constructed with care, they’re not good for travel, but for all-day wear they compare to models with twice the price tag. Purchase: $424

Audeze Sine

via thenextweb.com
via thenextweb.com

Despite the scant size, the Sine actually uses planar-magnetic drivers that create a broad stage despite the minimalistic build and closed-back. For those who just can’t live without an iPhone 7, you can get a Lightning cable (for an extra $50, of course) that will circumvent the lack of a headphone jack. Purchase: $449

Sony MDR-Z7

via gadgetfreak.gr
via gadgetfreak.gr

Broad padding and additional air space make the MDR-Z7 a closed-back ‘phone with the soul and jazz of an open-backed model. A thick, luxurious lining on both the cups and the headband make these cloud 9 for extended wear and a pair of cables that change with your audio setup give you control right where it matters. Purchase: $540

Ultrasone Signature Pro

via audio46.com
via audio46.com

Studio grade, the Signature Pro creates a more profound listening set by using S-Logic Plus technology that bounces sound around, rather than directing it right at your eardrums. The resonance that results is heavy and evocative. When you are done, the folding build and steel hinges let these be put away until you need them again. Purchase: $992

Sennheiser HD-800

via amazon.in
via amazon.in

Short of carrying around a set of full-sized speakers you’ll rarely find the same rich audio anywhere. One of the few upgrades that Sennheiser makes to their top-shelf audio landscape, the HD800s are made to go the distance and are an investment in quality sound for the next decade or so. Purchase: $1,500

Audeze LCD-3

via digitaltrends.com
via digitaltrends.com

Made entirely in the USA, the LCD-3 are in the conversation for best headphone in the world, with the cost to prove it. The earcups are Zebrawood with lambskin padding that’s as comfortable as it is environmentally unfriendly. The sound is transcendently transparent, even if the 550-gram weight can be a little wearying after a time. Purchase: $2,690

Focal Utopia

via theverge.com
via theverge.com

These must be heard to be believed. You can climb so far into sound with the Utopia headphones from France’s Focal that tracking a single instrument in a symphony is possible. Jazz takes on new intricacy, and the pure beryllium cone drivers dig deep, coming up with pure audio platinum. Purchase: $3,999

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