Some people really want a stellar experience when listening to music or enjoying movies, hence why in this article we are going to review the best audiophile headphones of 2021.
Recreational listening doesn’t ever have to be mediocre with audiophile-quality headphones, and the ones in this list showcase that through a wide range of price points and various features.
Here are the best audiophile headphones 2021:
- Grado Labs SR325e
- Pioneer SE-Master1
- 1More Triple Driver In-Ears
- Sennheiser HD 820
- Sony WH-1000XM3
- Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9
- JBL Live 650BTNC
- Meze 99 Classics
1. Grado SR325e
A retro design with a modern sound
Grado Labs is a company that’s slowly building in popularity as an audiophile-quality headphones company with products in the lower mid price range. The Grado SR325e headphones are one of the best-sounding headphones from the company.
The SR325e is a pair of open-back, on-ear headphones. Open-back headphones allow air to pass through the ear cup to the speaker. This is similar to listening without headphones, which means you’re getting a more accurate representation of the sound stage because pressure can’t build up in the cups and add false frequencies.
The downside of this is that open-back headphones leak sound. Closed-back headphones don’t have this problem, but sound pressure builds up in the ear cups and causes problems. The SR325e headphones are also an on-ear pair. This means they rest on the ears rather than around or over them.
The SR325e has an aluminum housing and a padded leather head strap that is resistant against hair styling products like wax or pomade. The design of the SR325e headphones is more retro, but they have a modern sound. The metal housing minimizes distortion you might get from transients, and there is a special cable used which helps to stabilize the upper and lower range of the frequency spectrum while keeping the midrange going strong.
Because of the combination of materials and electronics, you get a sound that has warm harmonic color, gives plenty of body and fullness, and is also smooth in the high frequency range. The frequency response range of the SR325e’s is 18 Hz to 24 kHz which is a little small compared to other hi-fi headphones but it’s definitely not bad at all.
|Image credit: Grado Labs Check Price on Amazon||
The Grado SR325e headphones are a perfect choice overall for a high-end pair of the best audiophile headphones under $300. If you like headphones with a modern, smooth, rich sound, you will enjoy these. I recommend them to anyone who wants to listen to music for long periods of time as long as you aren’t wearing glasses.
2. Pioneer SE-Master1
The biggest frequency response range
The SE-Master1 headphones by Pioneer are a flagship model that is a testament to the company’s legacy of producing top-quality headphones. The SE-MASTER1s are a pair of open-back, over-ear headphones.
Upon first inspection, it looks like a lot of detail was put into them, even the ear cup design. The headphones are made with a lightweight aluminum diaphragm that’s coated in ceramic, which enhances the natural performance of the electronics and delivers accurate dynamic high-fidelity audio with minimum noise. The SE-Master1 is the first headphone to have this special coating and be lightweight at the same time.
The diaphragm’s edges are made with a special film called PEEK to help provide a smoother sound and decrease distortion. Rubber is inserted in various areas of the headphones in order to prevent vibration and create better stereo separation.
The leather, memory foam ear pads are thin in the front and thick in the back to help fit to your ears better. The headband is a headband with a hanger element which is not something you might be used to seeing, but they help you to achieve a light and natural feeling fit while wearing these high-quality headphones.
As for the sound specifications, the SE-Master1 has an absolutely giant frequency response range and can reproduce audio of up to 85 kHz which is more than double what the minimum requirement is for audiophile-grade headphones. Their 5 Hz to 85 kHz frequency range means these things are crazy detailed when it comes to sound reproduction. You won’t be lacking any nuances.
The SE-Master1 also has aluminum alloy housing that minimizes resonance and helps to produce clear audio with tight, punchy bass, rich midrange frequencies, and smooth yet sparkling highs. Fun fact, the aluminum housing was originally developed for car speakers.
|Image credit: Pioneer Check Price on Amazon||
The SE-Master1 headphones from Pioneer are definitely some of the best headphones for audiophiles. If you want a bright, energetic, detailed audio performance, these headphones will do the job and surpass all expectations you had before using them. They are absolutely outstanding and a joy to use.
3. 1More Triple Driver In-Ears
The best audiophile in-ear headphones
1More is a Chinese brand that has a surprisingly amazing solution if you are wanting to purchase some audiophile-quality earbuds: their Triple Driver (E1001 model) earbuds. They are the world’s first THX certified earbuds and have gone through rigorous testing to ensure that they really are top-end.
The 1More Triple Driver in-ears have alloy earpieces that are ergonomically designed with special angles that match your ear canals to fit snugly in your ears (and not fall out) but not be so tight that they hurt, making for a very comfortable experience. They remain secure and tightly sealed enough that you can wear these when jogging or exercising and they won’t fall out. There are also 9 different sets of ear tips included so it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll find the right size.
Getting into the build, there are two balanced armature drivers (tweeters) and a separate dynamic driver (normal woofer speaker) in these earbuds. The armature drivers are inset with silicone covers and then have two outer layers of PET to offer a large amount of resilience with a great response time in bass and mid range frequencies.
Again these are another pair of headphones that have a lightweight aluminum alloy body. They also have a very durable cable made from copper wire and Kevlar fiber, so the wire will be able to withstand rough use, although I recommend gentle use with these since they’re higher-quality.
Another build feature is a 3-button control that allows you to pause, play, skip forward or backward, and answer and end calls, so they can definitely be used on the go or in a sports or entertainment setting.
In regards to sound, the Triple Driver in-ears were tuned by Luca Bernard, a Grammy award winning engineer, so you’re really getting a huge, balanced, and detailed sound with their frequency response range of 20 Hz to 40 kHz.
|Image credit: 1More Check Price on Amazon||
The 1More Triple Driver earbuds are amazing! If you prefer earbuds to headphones, these are the ones to get. They’d also be a good budget option. I recommend them for very active people who like sports.
4. Sennheiser HD 820
Transform your listening experience
The HD 820 headphones by Sennheiser are what I would say are the new standard for audiophile-grade closed-back, over-ear headphones. Normally closed-back headphones don’t have as good a sound as open-back headphones do, but these headphones are where that changes.
Diving right into the design, the HD 820s have a special innovation: Sennheiser Ring Radiator transducers are fitted with glass covers. The concave glass reflects sound waves, reducing the resonance almost completely. Thus, the sound waves are essentially ‘gone’ like they would be in open-back headphones.
Thick microfiber ear pads help to protect you from hearing background noise, and the headband of the HD 820 is metal (with plenty of padding) and has a damping element inside. Sennheiser ensures that you get the absolute best listening experience by taking great care in putting even tiny details into the HD 820’s design and hardware.
For an even better listening experience, Sennheiser also has a matching headphone amplifier called the HDV 820 for you to pair with the HD 820 headphones. Since the HD 820 headphones are closed-back, you can comfortably listen to audio at an audiophile-quality level with them at home or on the go.
Sennheiser boasts that they are the most transparent-sounding closed-back headphones in the world and I can say that it’s probably pretty true. They offer an extremely realistic, natural, and wide sound field, which is something you’d more often see with an open-back pair of headphones, so it’s really nice that these ones offer this natural experience.
Not only do they sound natural, they also sound very vivid thanks to their whopping 6 Hz to 48 kHz frequency response range, and it makes listening to songs you’ve heard before an invigorating experience.
|Image credit: Sennheiser Check Price on Amazon||
The Sennheiser HD 820 headphones are well worth the steep price tag in my opinion, but like usual, a test listen on them would be a good idea before making a purchase that large. Overall, they are reliable, comfortable, and I’m sure that any audiophile will love them.
5. Sony WH-1000XM3
The best wireless audiophile headphones
In the past I’ve reviewed a few headphones from Sony and been quite pleased with them. The Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones are definitely some excellent closed-back headphones, and for a pretty good price, too.
These headphones are feature packed. Firstly, they are noise-cancelling thanks to close fitting ear pads and Sony’s HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1. Having a separate processor for noise cancelling really solidifies that you won’t hear any background noise. Unique atmospheric pressure optimizing aids in delivering the best sound performance at high altitudes, so these are good for traveling (namely flying) with.
The WH-1000XM3s are wireless and use Bluetooth. The LDAC transmits 3 times more data than normal Bluetooth devices do, which allows you to enjoy hi-fi audio and not compromise the quality. It’s about the same rate of quality as a wired headphone would provide.
These headphones have Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) diaphragms that make them ideal for listening to beats that have a lot going on in them or have a lot of bass. They have a frequency response range of 4 Hz to 40 kHz, so you won’t lack any details when listening.
There’s a really cool feature of the WH-1000XM3 called Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX (DSEE HX) that restores the dynamic range in compressed digital music files, allowing you to listen to them at a much higher quality level.
Adaptive Sound Control detects your activity and then adjusts ambient sound settings accordingly, and with the Quick Attention feature you can communicate without taking off the headphones thanks to a touch sensitive control panel.
The WH-1000XM3 is also very lightweight and comfortable due to soft, pressure relieving ear pads. The WH-1000XM3 has an impressive 30 hours of battery life and with an optional AC adapter you can get 5 hours worth of battery life after just a 10 minute charge.
|Image credit: Sony Check Price on Amazon||
The Sony WH-1000XM3 closed-back over-ear wireless headphones are easily the best wireless audiophile headphones I’ve seen. They have so many great features and are awesome for any use at home or on the go, and with them being under $300 it’s a big steal. Anyone and everyone is sure to love the WH-1000XM3’s rich, clear, smooth sound and ultra high performance.
6. Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9
A solid, high-end Bluetooth option
If you’re primarily interested in Bluetooth, the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9 headphones are some great Bluetooth headphones for audiophiles and are some of the best audiophile headphones under $500.
Like the Sony WH-1000XM3, the Beoplay H9 headphones are noise-cancelling and allow you to focus on the music. The Beoplay H9 are over-ear headphones with a touch interface and up to 25 hours of battery life on a full, uninterrupted charge. These Beoplay H9 headphones deliver Bang & Olufsen Signature Sound with advanced ANC (Active Noise Cancellation).
Similarly to the cheaper Sony headphones, they have a feature that allows you to hear your surroundings when needed, called Transparency Mode. There is a dedicated button for voice assistance that you can use with Transparency Mode or while listening to music/other media. This is a really nice feature that definitely does make life a bit easier.
With these features, especially the Active Noise Cancellation, you will be getting a full and rich listening experience, and with the frequency response range of 20 Hz to 22 kHz, you’ll surely be getting a detailed and accurate sound reproduction.
Bang & Olufsen has improved this model quite a bit; additionally there is a new bass port on the headphones for providing an even deeper performance when experiencing the punchy qualities of the low end on the frequency spectrum.
As for the design, these headphones are pretty luxurious yet lightweight enough to wear for extended lengths of time, with lambskin and memory foam ear cushions, as well as a leather and memory foam padded headband and an anodized aluminum body.
There are also touch sensitive control panels on the Beoplay H9’s ear cups that allow you to play, pause, skip tracks, adjust volume, activate the voice assistant, and answer phone calls all while your phone stays in your pocket. The Beoplay H9’s battery gives you up to 25 hours of wireless playtime with all features being used, but it comes with a removable cord if you want to extend the length of your listening experience.
|Image credit: Bang & Olufsen Check Price on Amazon||
The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9 Bluetooth headphones are a nice audiophile choice for the money. I think they would be especially suitable for an intermediate audiophile who wants to upgrade their current Bluetooth headphones.
7. JBL Live 650BTNC
The best audiophile headphones under $200
JBL is a very reliable brand when it comes to audio equipment, so it’s no surprise to me that they have some of the best budget audiophile headphones.
The JBL Live 650BTNC headphones are an over-ear pair that have a few handy features that make the listening experience so much better than when using normal headphones. For starters, the JBL Live 650BTNC headphones are wireless; they use Bluetooth. The Live 650BTNCs deliver JBL Signature Sound (detailed, clear, big, full sounding audio) with enhanced bass.
Because of the enhanced bass, the frequency curve is not flat, but most frequency curves for audiophile headphones aren’t flat, so this is a common occurrence. The frequency response range for the Live 650BTNC headphones is 16 Hz to 20 kHz, which isn’t bad at all. Active noise cancelling technology helps to block out background noise and ambient sounds while you’re listening, so as not to distract you.
Another cool feature of these headphones is their compatibility with virtual assistants. Google Assistant, Siri, and Amazon Alexa are easily available with just a few small gestures, which brings us to our next feature: the touch panel. The touch panel is located on the ear cups similarly to the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9. With the touch panel, you can answer calls, play, pause, skip tracks, text a friend, check the weather, and much more without ever having to handle your smartphone.
The design of the Live 650BTNC is lightweight and sleek-looking, definitely very stylish and comfortable due to the thick ear pads and fabric headband. In regards to battery life, with a 2-hour charge you get 20 to 30 hours with Bluetooth and Active Noise Cancelling in operation. The headphones come with a detachable cable that has a remote and mic combo for playing music even when the battery dies.
|Image credit: JBL Check Price on Amazon||
The JBL Live 650BTNC wireless headphones are a great option for entry-level audiophile headphones. They’re not dirt cheap, but they are on the cheaper end of the price spectrum for audiophile headphones. They look stylish, sound pretty nice, and are overall a great starter headphone or even one that you can keep for years to come if you want to.
8. Meze 99 Classics
For sophisticated listeners
The Meze 99 Classics are an optimal choice for those who want to look good while listening to high-quality music. The 99 Classics are an over the ear, closed-back pair of headphones with a unique design that enhances audio naturally and delivers some sweet sounds.
They were built with walnut wood ear cups, zinc alloy hardware, a manganese steel headband, and the ear pads are very soft with memory foam padding – no plastic is used anywhere. These headphones’ ear cups are made with wood from old trees, ones that have reached the end of their life cycle, rather than destroying younger trees.
The headband on this thing provides an even amount of pressure no matter your head size and is very comfortable. The ear cups provide good sound isolation and keep out background noise with their medium density memory foam ear pads.
In addition to a warranty, all parts are replaceable and the headphones can be taken apart with ease because they are built with screws, not glue.
While these headphones may not be wireless, they still offer an amazing sound quality due to the modern design using natural materials and a general focus on creating headphones that deliver the best premium sound for audiophiles.
The sound really is good, partially thanks to the wide frequency response of 15 Hz to 25 kHz. I would describe it as being balanced and definitely very natural and smooth. It doesn’t seem like there are any dramatic spikes in the frequency spectrum. The wood ear cups really do make a difference that you can hear.
The passive noise cancellation is a feature that works well due to the ear cups being larger, so ambient background noise is kept out even without special technology. Like most (or all) audiophile headphones, you will need an amp for these headphones.
|Image credit: Meze Audio Check Price on Amazon||
The 99 Classics from Meze Audio are a fantastic option for those who appreciate a stylish headphone just as much as a neutral tone and wide sound stage. I strongly recommend these to anyone who wants a headphone pair that will look good with almost any outfit you wear. They are really really nice.
Now that you’ve read all these audiophile headphone reviews on the absolute best audiophile headphones available in 2021, you should have a pretty good idea of what you can get at certain price points.
This is just a baseline of the best audiophile headphones and doesn’t cover other options that you may end up liking more, so make sure to look into more models because there are so many out there.
Don’t forget to check out our article on best headphone amplifiers so you can get one to pair with the audiophile headphones of your choice!