You could be an audiophile in pursuit of high-fidelity audio and looking for the best headphones that’ll give you the ultimate sounding experience.
You could also be just a regular music listener looking for the next level of enjoyment and trying to rediscover the hidden sounds in your favorite music, which are completely inaudible using cheap headphones.
In all cases, having a pair of high-end headphones is a worthy investment.
Luckily, there are all kinds of high-end headphones ranging from as low as $100 up to $5000. With all the great options available, you might find it a little hard to choose the pair that best suits your taste and needs.
This guide can help you narrow down your choices by understanding the different types of headphones offered and the various sound properties they produce.
Moreover, you can find my top picks for the best high-end headphones with the best sound quality and total comfort.
This is a versatile list of the best high-end headphones, covering different types and designs.
It includes open-back and closed-back options, wireless noise-canceling headphones, and professional level studio headphones.
1. Sennheiser HD 800 S
The Sennheiser HD 800 S is one of the best high-end pairs of headphones. They have large dynamic drivers consisting of ring radiator transducers measuring 56 mm.
These patented transducers are different from other headphones, as their vibrating part is the outer ring of the diaphragm instead of the inner circle. This design helps reduce distortion and deliver a clearer sound.
The transducers are mounted on the lightweight durable earcups and are protected by a stainless steel mesh. They’re mounted at an angle to direct sound waves to the ears in the same way speakers do, creating a wide spatial feel.
Due to their open-back design, the headphones don’t have a deep bass, but they provide high-quality soundstage with very detailed highs and mids. They use Sennheiser’s patented absorber technology to smooth high frequencies and enhance low frequencies.
These headphones are really comfortable on the head with their ear cushions and damped headband. They come with two cables, one with a 6.3 mm terminal and the other with a 4-pin XLR.
Things I Like
- Highly detailed sound quality
- Ergonomically balanced and comfortable design
2. Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro are elegantly designed circumaural headphones made for sound engineers working on mixing and mastering.
This is the open-back version of the high-quality Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro. The open design allows for a great spatial listening experience.
The headphones feature 45 mm Tesla drivers with an impedance rate of 250 ohm. They come with two pairs of replaceable velour earpads. The balanced pads are the ones installed by default. They provide a more powerful and highlighted bass with deeper lows.
On the other hand, the analytical pads offer a more neutral sound with more controlled bass, which makes them more suitable for analytical listening and monitoring.
The DT 1990 Pro provides a bright and clear sound with high resolution and good high-mid balance. However, the highs could get too energetic at some points.
The headphones have good build quality with comfortable memory foam-filled earpads that are wrapped in velour. They come with two cables, a straight 9.8-feet one and a 16-feet coiled one.
The cables have 3.5 mm terminals that connect to the mini-XLR connector at the bottom of the left earcap.
Things I Like
- Rich and intense bass. Clear and detailed highs
- Two replaceable earpads with different sound characteristics
3. Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro
The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro are versatile headphones with several impedance options that are suitable for various uses.
The 32-ohm version is good for everyday consumer’s use with laptops, smartphones, and tablets. The long non-removable 3 m cable could be a hindrance for on-the-go situations.
The 80-ohm pair is more suited for studio recording and monitoring, while the 250-ohm headphones are ideal for detailed mixing due to their higher sensitivity and frequency response.
The DT 770 Pro has a closed-back design, which provides the isolation and minimum sound leakage required for studio monitoring and recording applications or for use in loud environments. The two variant versions DT 880 Pro and DT 990 Pro offer semi-open and open designs, resulting in more noise, but a more spatial sense as well.
The headphones have a balanced performance with good sound clarity and accuracy. The bass is powerful without extra boosting, while the highs and mids are bright and rich.
The construction is sturdy with rigid plastic earcups, comfy velour cushioned earpads and a removable snap-shut headband cushion.
Things I Like
- Balanced audio performance with little sound leakage
- Various impedance options suitable for different uses
4. Sony WH-1000XM3
The Sony WH-1000XM3 is one of the top wireless noise-canceling headphones. It’s packed with features to provide a great experience, whether it’s during calls or while listening to music.
The adaptive noise cancellation feature is highly efficient in all kinds of situations like on trains and planes or in crowded places, where people are talking or there’s music playing.
Using ambient noise mode, the headphone can filter the noise and allow you to hear some voices like public announcements at stations and airports.
The quick attention mode allows you to listen to people without taking your headphones off by lowering the music’s volume, capturing the voices using mics and delivering them to you.
In addition, there’s atmospheric pressure optimizing specifically designed to be used on plane flights. It’s also possible to use the noise-canceling feature without listening to music by customizing the automatic-off settings.
These headphones excel in sound quality as well. They provide clear highs, naturally accurate mids, and deep defined bass. They also provide equalizer settings to improve your listening experience.
You can control the playback using the capacitive touch earcup. You can also activate the voice assistant with a simple tap.
Things I Like
- Superior noise cancellation with different adaptive modes
- High sound quality and long battery life
- Light and comfortable construction
5. Bose QuietComfort II Wireless
The Bose QuietComfort II is another great noise-canceling wireless headphone. It’s the first headphone to provide support for Google Assistant, in addition to Amazon Alexa and Siri. You can access it through the Action button on the left earcup.
The Action button could also be mapped to other functions like noise cancellation levels using the Bose Connect app. Bose’s noise cancellation feature is extremely efficient, as it shuts out almost all noise. Even when noise cancellation is off, the earpads manage to significantly block ambient noise.
The sound quality of the Bose QuietComfort is one of the best among wireless headphones. It’s neutrally balanced and smooth with enough bass power and good resolution.
These headphones work just as great for calls and provide a very useful feature that lets you hear your own voice in the headphones when talking.
They’re made from solid lightweight plastic with really comfortable earpads and playback control buttons on the left earcup.
Things I Like
- Google Assistant support
- Extra light and comfortable design
- A wired mode in case the battery dies
6. Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless
The Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 is the new wireless over-ear model of the Momentum series. The main feature of these headphones is the active noise cancellation, which works well on the streets and in crowded environments.
It has a sufficient effect that’s not overly strong that it would cause the sound quality to be dampened. However, there’s no option to turn it off.
The dual mics with the VoiceMax technology and the ability to hear your voice in the headphones make it a good headset for calls.
The Momentum 2.0 has high sound quality with punchy accurate bass and perfectly clear mids and highs.
The sound is highly balanced, refined, and articulated, yet smooth. You can even opt to use the wired connection to get an even stronger dynamic performance.
The earcups have a big design and soft materials to comfortably fit over the ears. The headband is wrapped in leather and the stainless steel sidearms have collapsible sliders to fold up the headphones for storage.
The headphones also support NFC pairing technology, multi-device connectivity, and vocal assistance. The battery life is quite good, even with the always-on noise cancellation.
Things I Like
- Rugged comfy build with foldable design
- Pristine and rich sound quality with clear mids and tight bass
- NFC instant pairing
7. GRADO SR325e
The GRADO SR325e headphones are known for their unique exciting sound and retro style design. They have an open-back design, so they don’t block external noise, but at the same time, they provide great stereo imaging and wide spacious sound.
The sound produced by these headphones is extremely clear and bright with amazing details and depth. While they provide precise highs and a lively dynamic punch, they’re not designed to give the full powerful bass needed for low-end music genres like hip hop or EDM. Their low-end is defined and clear but lacks enough weight and power.
The sturdy earcups with their special look are made from powder-coated aluminum and have wire mesh grilles at the back.
They can rotate 360 degrees, while the headband has an adjustable sliding mechanism and is wrapped in leather. The earpads have firm bowl-shaped rings that offer more pressure on the outer edge of the ears.
Things I Like
- Very clear, detailed and dynamic sound
- Widely spacious stereo imaging
8. Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless
The Bower & Wilkins P7 are closed-back over-ear wireless headphones that offer almost the same high-quality sound like their wired version. The advantage is that you can also enjoy the slightly better sound quality of the wired configuration. You can plug the included cord in the socket hidden behind the left earpad.
The headphones have a well-balanced sound with deep and energetic bass that has a lot of punch. The treble is also detailed and well-defined with high clarity and warmth.
The sound is rich and has a good spacious feel for a closed design. However, there might be a little loss of detail in the mid range.
Despite not having noise-canceling technology like other wireless headphones, the P7 provides adequate passive noise isolation through the tightly sealed earcups that wrap around your ears without putting too much pressure.
The battery life is fairly good and the Bluetooth pairing is reliably stable. The headphones also perform well during phone calls with a feature that allows you to hear your own voice from them.
Things I Like
- Steady wireless connection
- Rich and energetic sound with punchy bass
- Works in a wired configuration
9. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is a pair of extremely popular headphones with a lively, energetic sound and an extra punch of bass. They have a closed-back circumaural design with 45 mm drivers.
Though not equipped with noise cancellation technology, they provide adequate sound isolation.
The shallow earcups can swivel by 90 degrees to allow one-ear monitoring for DJs. They’re also foldable for portability. The headphones are sturdy with mostly plastic parts and synthetic leather padding.
Even though they’re marketed as studio monitor headphones, they’re more suited for use with phones due to the bass boost they provide. They offer accurate tonal balance with powerful bass, boosted upper mids, and detailed treble. The sound has a dynamic impact with a wide and deep soundstage.
The headphones have a detachable cord design with a thick reinforced terminal. They come with three cables, one short straight cable for portable use and two long straight and coiled cables for home use.
Things I Like
- Lively detailed sound with powerful bass
- Sturdy build with comfortable cushiony earcups
- Detachable cord design with three included cords
What You Should Know Before Buying High-End Headphones
When you’re looking for new high-end headphones, you want to choose headphones that’ll give you the ultimate listening experience with high-fidelity sound.
There are lots of specs and features that dictate the quality and characteristics of the resulting sound. Having a better understanding of them will help you choose the headphones that satisfy your personal taste and needs.
Sound quality is not the only factor here. However, you should also take into consideration the whole experience, where and for what you’ll be using the headphones, their comfort level, and extra features.
Let’s break all this info into this buying guide.
Types of Headphones
Headphones come in all sorts of shapes and kinds. They can be categorized based on several aspects that influence the quality of the sound they produce and their comfort level.
According to their form or style, headphones can be divided into three main types, each with its advantages and disadvantages.
Also known as earphones or earbuds, these are the most widely used headphones for usual consumers. The earpieces come in two styles, they could sit on your outer ear without sealing the ear canal, or they’re inserted into the ear canal to seal it. The second style usually has superior sound performance.
In-ear headphones are light and highly portable, but they’re mostly not very comfortable. They tend to have inferior audio performance to that of the other forms, although some models offer rivaling high performance.
These headphones sit on top of your outer ears with the sides being exposed. They’re not as bulky as over-ear types so they’re more portable. Due to their smaller driver size, the sound quality is slightly affected.
These supra-aural headphones have sound isolation to some degree, but the user can still hear the surrounding voices to some extent, which is beneficial in office environments.
Over-ear headphones, also known as circumaural, fully enclose the ears. They have larger drivers and higher audio performance. They’re usually able to produce a more powerful sound with more clarity and bass depth.
Due to their sound isolation and heavier build, they’re more suited to home and studio use.
The design of the outer part of the earcups has a major influence on the sound characteristics you’ll get from the headphones.
Headphones with a closed-back design have completely sealed earcups, where the drivers are entirely protected. This design leads to an artificial sound effect with a little spacious feel. On the other hand, it tends to have more punch in the bass and a more detailed sound.
Overall, closed-back headphones don’t sound as good as the open-back ones, but they’re more suited for on-the-go use.
The open-back design leaves the drivers exposed with a protective mesh grille on the outer part of the earcup. This allows air and outside sound to pass through and mix with the produced sound, giving it a more natural and spacious effect.
This design widens the soundstage and improves the stereo imaging of the headphones, meaning that they provide a better feel of where the different sounds are coming from.
Despite the better sounding experience, open-back headphones leak sound, which means that people around you can hear them too, so they’re not suitable for use in public places.
The type of connection between your headphones and your audio source is definitely a factor that affects the quality of sound you receive.
As the name suggests, wired headphones are connected to the audio device through cables.
Among all types of connections, they have the highest sound quality due to their ability to transfer the audio data with high fidelity.
Some headphones come with double instead of single cords. Detachable cables are more popular than non-removable ones as you might want to use your headphones with different cables of different lengths.
Allowing more portability than the wired options, the wireless headphones transmit audio using Bluetooth.
This results in a degraded audio quality due to the compression process.
However, new models that support the aptX Bluetooth codec provide improved fidelity and dynamic sounding.
The other downside is that these headphones run on batteries but there are lots of models that offer a wired configuration in case your battery runs out, which also improves the sound quality.
These headphones have no wires at all. They consist of two independent buds that sync together to make a stereo pair.
The battery life is usually short with fewer features and a lower audio performance than other types. Nevertheless, the newest models are rapidly improving.
The frequency response is how the headphones respond to the different ranges of frequencies of the audio signal, the bass (lows), midrange, and treble (highs). This response determines the sound signature that’s unique to each headphone.
Some headphones tend to brighten or boost some sub-ranges and cut others. Lots of the current consumer-grade models produce more bass depth. On the other hand, sound engineers commonly use flat response headphones to mix, which provide accurate and balanced sound without any boosting.
As a listener, it’s up to you to choose the type of response you prefer. It depends on what genres of music you listen to and how much power and punch you enjoy in the different frequencies. You can also find some high-fidelity headphones that provide several sets of earpads that produce different sound characteristics and boosting variations.
Most of the high-end headphones on the market are able to provide high-fidelity audio with only slight variations in sound quality.
It’s up to you to choose the pair of headphones that best suits your personal taste, fits you comfortably, and gives you all the features you need.
With that said, I’d personally go for the Sennheiser HD 800 S with its large drivers and superior high-quality sound. They’re sure to produce enjoyable crisp and detailed sound with great soundstage due to their open-back design.
For a more portable option, you should opt for the wireless Sony WH-1000XM3. In addition to having the best sound cancellation technology with great features and controls, these headphones produce extremely defined and clear sound.
If you’re looking for a more affordable option, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones can give you a balanced dynamic sound with powerful bass. They also don’t compromise on durability and comfort.
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