Full Size Headphone Recommendations -

 

 

Full Size Headphone Recommendations

Welcome to the world of full sized headphones. These are the cans to get when you are very serious about sound quality because with bigger drivers come bigger sound.

The list starts with relatively affordable headphones in the $100 price range, but as you scroll down, you will find some headphones that cost upwards of $1,000. The price may be impressive, but remember rule #2 and #3 from the Headphone Guide article. While it’s true that more expensive headphones are usually always better technically, what you need ultimately is a headphone that plays well with your music.

The most expensive headphones are usually designed to let you hear more things, to hear things clearer than ever before, to give you the pure unaltered reproduction of the recording. While those lines would make a pretty good marketing lines, remember that the majority of music out there have awful recording quality. Unless you are listening to strictly classical music or audiophile jazz, where they tend to come with above-average recording quality, you may want to rethink your decision to buy that $1,000 headphone. Again, rule #2 and #3 from the Headphone Guide article.

The list is sorted based on price, starting from the lowest to the most expensive. The categorizing is meant to be a rough guideline, for more detailed sound impressions please refer to the reviews.

  • HiFi: Warm sound signature with full midrange and bass.
  • Rockin': Aggressive forward and lively sound with fast pace, good for Rock and similar music.
  • Monitoring: Precise sound lets you hear the recordings in an uncolored manner.
  • Basshead: Tuned for maximum bass quantity, punch and impact.
  • Open Sound: Very spacious and open presentation, almost speaker like. Tend to be weak in bass.

Sennheiser HD202 – HiFi

The entry level full size Sennheiser starts with a very low price of $19.91. Pretty amazing and probably is the best value you can get for your money. Dark and laid back sound with plenty of mid and bass body. The HD202 doesn’t wow people with treble details, but is actually very enjoyable with many different music genres. Moderate noise isolation and comfort, but the cable feels a little too long sometimes. Lower end variant: Sennheiser HD201.

$19.91 from Amazon.com | Sennheiser HD202 Review

Grado SR60i/SR80i – Rockin’

The Grado SR60i is an updated model of the SR60, a big headphone icon among headphone enthusiasts. The SR60i represents the entry level Grado sound with its uniquely forward, engaging, and open sound that makes Grado famous. It is one of the must-to-listen headphone and one that I’d recommend to everybody. It works very well for Rock, Indie, Acoustic, Blues, Country. Due to the fully open-back design, the Grado SR60 leaks sound big time, both in and out. But the same open-back design is also what’s responsible for creating such a special listening experience. The SR80i is a higher up model that offers better bass than the entry level SR60i, with the same magical Grado sound signature. Do give either one of these headphones a try.

$79.00 from Amazon.com (SR60i) | $99.00 from Amazon.com (SR80i)

Audio Technica M-50 – Monitoring

The M-50 is a relatively affordable, semi-premium studio monitoring headphone that happens to translate well to the music listening environment. This headphone is very popular among the enthusiasts. All rounder sound, medium pace, good comfort, decent noise isolation, good bass though not too punchy nor tight. Noise isolation is very good. Lower end variant: Audio Technica M-30.

$133.78 from Amazon.com | Closed Cans Shootout

Shure SRH-840 – Monitoring

The SRH-840 is another semi-premium studio monitoring headphone that also has a strong following among music listeners. At $144, it’s the M-50’s closest competitor, both with their own strengths and weaknesses. Please read the comparison article for the full details. Lower end variant: Shure SRH-440.

$144.40 from Amazon.com | Closed Cans Shootout

 

 

The headphones listed below this point require a headphone amplifier to sound best.

Audio Technica Pro700 Mk2 – Basshead

Seriously bass heavy headphone. Frequency balance heavily biased for bass and only bass. Great basshead headphone, awesome for dance and electronica.

$149.00 from Amazon.com | Bass To The Power Of Two: Pro700 Mk2

AIAIAI TMA-1 – Basshead

The TMA-1 is a specialty headphone. It is voiced for electronic and dance music, where I find it to be one of the most amazing headphone for Trance and House. It’s also pretty good with Jpop, especially the energetic Jpop Dance/Techno stuff. Works extremely well for the recordings it’s voiced for, but not so good with other mainstream recordings. Due to the loose fit, the TMA-1 leaks sound in and out.

$199.99 from Amazon.com | AIAIAI TMA-1

Audio Technica AD900 – Open Sound

This mid entry level open headphone from Audio Technica will impress you with its big, spacious sound. We did a group comparison on the full AD-line up headphones and found that the AD900 to be the most balanced model among the others. You can also try the slightly lower end AD700 and AD300 models as they offer the same sound signature for less money.

$216.95 from Amazon.com | Audio Technica AD Series Comparison 

Sennheiser HD558/HD598 – HiFi

These new mid-level headphones from Sennheiser offer a step up in sound quality from the previous HD555/595 models. Very good refinement level with a generally laid back and smooth sound signature, a typical Sennheiser sound signature. Although their sound quality tend to e overshadowed by the higher end HD600/HD650 models, the HD558/HD598 are more popular for people who’s not willing to make heavy investment on a headphone amplifier and a high quality source.

$179.95 from Amazon.com (HD558) |  $249.95 from Amazon.com (HD598) | HD558 and HD598

 

From this point down you are looking at the reference-class headphones.

Beyerdynamic DT880 – Monitoring

The DT880 is the most popular full size headphone from Beyerdynamic. Originally designed for professional monitoring purposes, the DT880 is even more resolving than the Shure SRH-840 and Audio Technica M-50. In fact, there is nothing more resolving than these DT880s on the south side of $300. Keep in mind that with super-resolving monitoring headphones such as these DT880s, you have to pay close attention to the quality of the recording material, otherwise it will sound pretty nasty. They come in several variants, PRO and Premium and in 32 Ohm, 250 Ohm and 600 Ohm versions. The PRO is more affordable while the Premium has a better build quality. Between the different impedance versions, the higher impedance version offers a more linear and smoother sound, though more demanding in amplification.

$237.99 (DT880 250 Ohm PRO) |  Old School Trio

Ultrasone Pro900 – HiFi

The Pro900 is one of the best models among Ultrasone’s line up. Equipped with the S-Logic technology, the Pro900 offers a wide spacious sound with clean details and an impactful bass. Great for Classical music and audiophile Jazz.

$328.17 at Amazon.com

Sennheiser HD600/650 – HiFi

These are great all rounder headphone with reference qualities. The HD580/600 have forward mids, good treble and midrange detail, good bass impact. Pace is moderately fast. If you like a more laid back sound with fuller lows, and listens to slower paced songs, go for the HD650. Keep in mind that the HD580 is discontinued, so you can only get the HD600 and HD650 brand new. $314.95 (HD600) | $494.00 (HD650) | Old School Trio

Sony Z1000 – HiFi

New flagship closed headphone from Sony is a great all rounder headphone that will give you a near high-end resolution and refinement in a closed design, easy to drive package. Fairly linear frequency balance, good mids and vocals, unoffensive and smooth treble, good detail extraction and soundstage. The only weak point is the bass impact which is just okay. Medium pace and PRaT.

$499.00 from Amazon.com | First Impression: Sony Z1000

Audio Technica W1000X – HiFi

The W1000X is one of the most popular wood cup headphone from Audio Technica. Sublime build quality paired with a smooth HiFi sound, this headphone is excellent for mellow, slower paced jazz and female vocals.

$573.65 from Amazon.com | Audio Technica W1000X Grandioso

Koss ESP-950 – Open Sound

The ESP-950 is an electrostatic headphone and it requires a special amplifier designed to drive those type of a headphone. Good thing that Koss sells the ESP-950 bundled together with the E/90 electrostatic amplifier so you don’t have to worry about sourcing the amplifier separately. The Electrostatics tend to be weak in bass, but the way it reproduces music is very special, something that you don’t find with ordinary headphones.

$599.45 from Amazon.com | Koss ESP-950

Grado RS1i – Rockin’

The RS1 is the classic Rock headphone. Grados have always been voiced to sound great with Rock, Blues, Country, among other things, and the RS1 model represents the best of the Grado sound. Grado have released more expensive headphones such as the GS1000 and the PS1000, but we still like the RS1 best. There is also a new model with a slightly different sound called the PS500, and though it’s also a good headphone, it’s still not quite like the RS1. You can also try the lower end SR325is, it’s a slightly downgraded sound from what you get with the RS1, but still a very good headphone and for half the cost of the RS1. (note: The RS1 has undergone several different versions, the latest version is called the RS1i).

$695.00 (RS1i) | $295.00 (SR325is) | Grado RS1 and Alessandro MS-Pro

 

From this point down you are looking at the flagships. The utmost best in sound quality.

Hifiman HE-500 – HiFi

Surprisingly the HE-500 takes over the HE-6 in the flagship spot. The HE-500 takes the HE-6 drivers and tweaks a few things to result in an easier to drive factor, very sweet and musical mids, and good clarity all around without being harsh. Midrange lovers will love this headphone. Recommended for Jazz, Blues, Vocals.

$699.00 from ALO Audio | HE-500 First Impression

Audez’e LCD-2 – HiFi

Perhaps most impressive for the bass section. The reigning bass champion among the flagship headphones. Dark sounding with a sweet planar tonality, this headphone has developed a very loyal following, though many owners feel the need to use silver cabling to bring out treble levels a little bit.

$945.00 from ALO Audio | Audez’e LCD-2 Impressions

Beyerdynamic T1 – Rockin’

The flagship Beyerdynamic is characterized by a brilliant, sparkly treble, fast and impactful bass passages, and relatively forward mids.

$1,295.00 from Amazon.com | German Flagship Battle: HD800 and T1

Beyerdynamic T5p – Rockin’

A closed-back variant of the flagship T1 model, the T5p is less demanding on the amplification while still offering a clear flagship-class reference sound, though slightly below the T1’s level.

$1,295.00 from ALO Audio

Sennheiser HD800 – HiFi

The flagship Sennheiser is the most resolving headphone out there today. In real life, that actually translates to something that’s not so easy to enjoy. Don’t expect to be playing Pop music tracks with these since it’s just going to show you how bad the average pop recordings are. With a good system and a good recordings, however, the HD800 is absolutely stunning. Budget an additional $2,000 to $3,000 for a good amplifier for the HD800.

$1,499.95 from Amazon.com | German Flagship Battle: HD800 and T1

 

Only list the most popular products are listed here. If you feel it to be too limited, feel free to browse the reviews on the Headphones Category:

 

 

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  • Michiel Kerckenaere

    Hi, thanks for such a great website and informative reviews.

    I’m looking for a full size headphone to use in the office. They should isolate me from my coworkers noise and also isolate the music to them (so no open-back design). Music will mostly be classical music and jazz, as I don’t concentrate well with lyrics.

    For starting I will use my computers built in audio-control, but do plan on investing in a affordable headphone amplifier later on.

    Budget, preferable <250€ but will go up to 300€ if necessary.

    What headphones would recommend I look at?
    Also suggestion for a good amp are also welcome.

    thanks!
    Michiel
    (Belgium)

    • dalethorn

      The Beyerdynamic DT-770 32 ohm should be perfect. It’s the new standard edition of the DT-770 Anniversary Limited Edition reviewed here. Isolation is very good, leakage is low, and the sound and soundstage would be excellent for classics and jazz. For use with a computer, I’d advise a small combination USB DAC that includes a headphone amp.

      • Michiel Kerckenaere

        Hi Guys,

        thanks so much for your feedback. I’ve never heard of that brand (which is probably a good thing). I’ve read some reviews and I think I will order it over the weekend.

        What would be a decent USB DAC + Headphone Amp? Something that matches the headphone (price point / quality).

        What is the difference betwene the 32ohm / 80ohm headphones? Is the 32 the best for my use?

        I will probably want to use it with a iPod sometimes as well, althoug 90% will be at work with the headphone amp.

        thanks!

        • dalethorn

          The 32 ohm is definitely best for portable devices like iPods, but the small USB DACs that are excellent for use with computers are usually powered by the USB, so their power is limited compared to self-powered DACs, so the 32 ohm headphone is a wise choice for those DACs as well. The FiiO E07k is a good starting point for a DAC with headphone amp and costs less than $100 USD. Going up from there,

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Hey Michiel. Welkom!

      For a closed headphone the DT770 AE/32Ohm is very good. It doesn’t need amplification and has good isolation. you can’t go wrong with it.

      Hij kost 155€ bij Thomann http://www.thomann.de/nl/beyerdynamic_dt_770_pro_32_ohm.htm?sid=5560329d7f18909e3b37ad4778758d93

      But I’m sure you can find it even cheaper here in Belgium or Holland!

      If after a while you want to increase the level of the headphone, you can like Dale said, buy a mini dac/amp

      • Michiel Kerckenaere

        I’ve been reading a bit on amps last night, and came across the FiiO E10. But I can’t seem to find them in Europe. When I did find them, it sed they were discontinued.

        I don’t think I want a portable one.. for the few times when I might want to use these headphones with an iPod, I won’t want the hassle of dragging a long a portable amp.

        So Just a nice looking desktop amp will do fine.

        What set you would advice (dac+amp) ? And what verion of the DT770 should I get to match? 32/80/250ohm?

        thanks

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          The 32 ohm version, as it needs hardly any amplification and can be used straight from your pc or ipod. I was actually going to suggest the E10 to you. Check out audiogarden.fr (http://audiogarden.fr/dac/4-fiio-e10-olympus.html)

          • Michiel Kerckenaere

            Hi, I have, they don’t have any left to sell. Production stopped, it says on the detailed page.

            Any other resellers?

            • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

              The E10 will be replaced with the E10K soon, Fiio just confirmed it to me. I’ll check other sources

              • Michiel Kerckenaere

                I’ve looked at some other options, but I really like the look of that E10. Other options are either portable (which I don’t like) or lack the professional look of the E10. The ones that do have the look are usually way more expensive.

                What did they change with the E10K? If they have kept the enclosure then I might just get the headphones now and wait for the new version.

                I did find the E10 new on ebay, but it’s being shipped from Japan, which will end up costing me extra on importing duties… not something I’m very fond off.

                • Michiel Kerckenaere

                  I’ve just ordered the headphone with the optional ear pads from Thomann. And I’ve found an E10 from some dodge webshop somewhere in eastern europe. Now lets pray that it gets here.

                  Thanks for your help guys!

                  • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                    Our pleasure, what are those optional ear pads?

                    • dalethorn

                      Looks like velour pads.

                    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                      I have those on my DT770 as well, mmm velour

                    • Michiel Kerckenaere

                      Yup, those!

  • Billy Wu

    Any chance you will do a Beyerdynamic T5P review? You’ve covered a few high-end closed cans already, including the TH900/600 and the LCD-XC but the T5P hasn’t gotten much attention in the flagship category. I’m pretty sure the sound signature is different enough from the T1 to call for a separate review.

    Thanks!
    Billy

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Yeah, good idea!

  • Budianto

    Hey , thank you for providing me with this great article.
    Im looking for an upgrade, currently im using the goldring dr100 headphone and hippo circri as the amp. do you have any recommendation (i prefer the full size open cans) ? my budget is around USD 500-700 or IDR 5.000.000-7.000.000

    Thanks

  • Marc

    If I may say so, I really think all moderators and writers of Headfonia (including prominent readers) should recreate the Recommendation Guide and maybe update it once a year

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      I wanted to contribute to this, but I gave up, at least for the time being. Reading the descriptions, there are lots of exciting properties, but it’s nearly impossible to compare any two and get an idea of exactly how they sound compared to each other. For example, I can make a good comparison of a Beyer T1 and T90, but unless I have the HD800 in-house, I can’t really make an accurate comparison of the T1 to the HD800. I’ve also found that when I have an opinion on a headphone, someone may suggest trying an album or even a couple of tracks I haven’t heard before, and that could change my opinion some. So if someone has a model of how to make the recommendations more of a tool to get to a purchase decision, instead of just presenting the items on their own terms, that could help.

      • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

        we will find some way to update it

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Yes but that’s so hard to do

      • Marc

        True but once it’s updated you’d have sure references per sound sig per price range!! Maybe you could be like Innerfidelity in this aspect and have extended loans merely for the purpose of having reference sets to compare newcomers to.

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          The problem is the number of comparisons – just 100 headphones is nearly 10 thousand comparisons, and that doesn’t include amps. Testing sites try to shortcut that with objective test results, but that’s not a full solution.

          • Marc

            And a feat it would surely be when Headfonia succeeds.

  • Brandon

    Hey, thanks for the article; it really is helpful! After some research I decided that I want either a refurbished Sennheiser 558 for $89 or a new pair of Grados SR80s for $100 to plug into my ASUS Xonar DG. I play a lot of FPS games and listen to all kinds of music. Personally, I like sparkly treble and a wide soundstage, but it looks like I won’t be getting both. Also, I’m trying to find a pair at $100 or less on Amazon. Thanks.

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      Keep watching Amazon for a few weeks at least. I go in and search for headphone sale, then I restrict the results to headphones only (about 2500 results usually), then I sort by price to get where I want quickly.

      • Brandon

        What are some good prices on the mentioned headphones if I were to look for those? Also, do you know how the ATH-AD500X compares to the ATH-AD700X?

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          When Amazon has a headphone for 1/2 MSRP, that’s a good price. I never heard those AT’s.

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