On this page you’ll find our FULL SIZED Headphone recommendations of this moment. This is an ever evolving list.
This Beyerdynamic was loved right from the beginning here on Headfonia. Mike and myself did a double review and we ended up recommending a lot of these DT770’s to our readers. The headphone turned out to be so successful that Beyerdynamic continued making them under the 32Ohm label and it’s still selling strong. For little money you get an excellent closed headphone (I recommend the velour pads) with a more V-Shaped sound signature. You get excellent detail and lovely bass, and when hooking it up to tube amp, the DT700 transform into a very addictive headphone. While no amplifiers are needed to drive this headphone, you will notice how remarkably better it sounds when amped. If you’re in need of something good and closed, this should be on your list.
Philips Fidelio X2
With the Fidelio line (research lab is in Belgium), Philips has struck gold. The X2 is a superb sounding headphone that is very easy to listen to. Don’t forget it is an open headphone and that sound will leak in and out of it. The X2 is without doubt one of the better Mid-Fi headphones for use at home or at the office, not for on the go (even though is also is easy to drive). It simply is an excellent headphone that will be hard not to like sound wise. The X2 has all the detail but it has a warm and smooth sound signature where bass is present in a more than neutral amount. It’s very easy to love and with is slightly slower pace, never fatigues.
Meze 99 Classics
When Nathan starts calling headphones brilliant you can pretty sure they’re extremely good sounding. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him like a headphone this much. The Meze 99 Classics ticks off most, if not all the boxes. It’s not cheap and it’s not expensive. Its accessories, cables, and general construction are nice, if not luxurious. With the right pads, it is a damn hard headphone not to hype. And that goes for sound: punchy, but even handed, this headphone’s neutral, contrasty signature is there for the long haul. The 99 Classics looks even better in real but if you don’t like them you can now buy the Meze 99 NEO in a black stealth edition.
These are both great all rounder headphones with reference qualities. They have been around for decades already but they’re still highly popular because of their sublime sound. The HD600 has a leaner sound with 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 while retaining the overall detail level, more emotion and listen to slower paced songs, go for the HD650. An amplifier is recommended for both headphones and they will sound their very best in combination with a tube amplifier like the Bottlehead Crack or a solid state amp like the Beyerdynamic A20 which has a warmer and smoother character. These headphones are here to stay and we’ve been calling them “classics” for awhile already. You owe it to yourself to have once owned either of these masterpieces from Sennheiser.
The HE-560 is one of those headphones situated between mid-fi and high-fi but you get extremely good sound for its price. With its orthodynamic driver its sound is fast, detailed and precise. Sound stage levels are very good and the bass quality is extraordinary. The mids are rich and spacious and treble is extended, detailed and airy. Fans of orthos and lovers of a linear, neutral but musical sound just need to add this headphone to their collection. It is extremely well tuned “audiophile style”. Yes, you will need an amplifier to make it sound this good but you don’t need to spends thousands either. If you’re looking for a highly qualitative sound in this price class, the open Hifiman HE-560 still is my recommended headphone.
This headphone hasn’t been officially reviewed on Headfonia just yet but it sounds incredibly good. Fast, clean, detailed, natural, etc are all words that can be used to describe the Elear’s exceptional sound quality. I like the design and I like its price as it performs well above its $999 price point. The Utopia isn’t on the list just yet because – while it is/sounds sublime – it didn’t impress me as much as the Elear did at its price level. That being said the Utopia is one of the very best sounding headphones available on the market right now, but so are the even more expensive Sennheiser HE-1 (Orpheus 2) and the Hifiman Shangri La… If you’ve got $1K to spend, it probably doesn’t get any better than this.
The Beyerdynamic T1 is a classic and if you’re looking for a reference level headphone with a neutral and brighter tuning, this T1 will be your thing. The T1 got revised last year and is now called the T1.2 and it features removable cables. While the trance-lover in Nathan prefers the original, he reckons that non-electronic, non-metal heads will probably prefer the new T1. If you love its robust mid-forward, mid-wide sound signature, the T1 2.Generation is a phenomenal choice. The T1.2 still is Beyerdynamic’s reference headphone. High-end amplifier recommended.
The flagship from Sennheiser is a very picky headphone. It is often recommended with amplifiers priced above $1,000 and with similarly priced sources. The recording quality is also very essential. Don’t expect to be playing Top40, Pop, Jpop music with these cans and get satisfaction. But if you already have a good high end source and amplifier and high resolution source files, then the HD800 will deliver music at an unsurpassed refinement level. The voicing is sublime for Classical, Jazz and Vocals. It won’t work with Rock and RnB and other mainstream music. Most impressive about this gorgeous looking headphone are its sound stage width and depth, its spaciousness, accuracy & speed and finally the level of detail. While the HD800 for a lot of people is an end game headphone, others can stand how analytical it sounds. With a great amplifier however this headphone will produce sound of a level you didn’t know was possible. I’ll take the original HD800 over the nass heavier HD800S anyday.
Hifiman Edition X V2
The Hifiman Edition X V2 was voted best open headphone of 2016 here on Headfonia and a whole bunch of other sites. It’s got the typical planar magnetic sound, great detail, awesome bass and all that wrapped in an airy and musical presentation. With the recent price drop (originally $1799), this has become an even more highly recommended headphone in the +$1K category. Compared to the original V1, the V2 version simply sounds even better with richer mids and a more bodied, balanced sound. While it is easy to drive it isn’t really a headphone to take outside with you, unless you like getting looked at weird that is. With the X V2 you get a really good qualitative rich sound that is presented in a smooth and more laid back way that is non-fatiguing. Simply put: it is awesome.
If you were convinced by how we described the LCD-XC but you prefer open back headphones, than the LCD-X is the one you’re looking for. The X still is one of my favourite headphones when I’m not reviewing but a good amplifier is absolutely necessary. The first thing you will notice is that the sound has less bass body than the Audeze LCD-2 or 3 while improving on bass detail. The Audeze LCD-X produces a flatter, cleaner and more linear sound. Things sound cleaner especially on the mids and the bass section. The pace is faster, snappier, more nimble, quicker. I don’t think anybody has ever said that the 2 or the 3 sounds slow, but the LCD-X makes them sound slow. Amplifier recommended
In the +$1K class, the Audeze LCD-XC still is my favorite headphone. Yes it’s rather heavy but the quality in sound simply is impressive. Though obviously not as open or spacious sounding as the open back models, the XC has its own way of projecting a more three dimensional sound stage image within its closed back boundaries. Whereas the LCDs have always been good with sound stage image, the XC takes it to a whole new level, giving you a much sharper image and focus of the sound stage and the instrument placements. Three dimensional depth is also on a whole new level. This paragraph alone gives enough reason to why the XC should always be considered when you’re planning on getting a high end closed headphone. The LCD-XC is fairly easy to drive but a really good amplifier will make it scale up nicely. Amplifier recommended
With the right (powerful) solid state or tube headphone amplifier the Hifiman HE6SE absolutely impresses. It’s neutral reference at its very best and if you like technicalities, you’ll be in heaven for sure. And it gets even better, if you already own a good speaker amp, you can just hook it up to the speaker taps and enjoy it like that. Fact is though that you need to properly amp your HE6SE and even more, you have to make sure the synergy between the amp and headphone sits right. But do that and it will wow you. The original HE6 is an icon and the new HE6SE extends that certificate for another 10 years. If a linear, balanced and neutral tuning with a musical presentation is your thing, then you owe it to yourself to listen to the HE6SE, it will surprise you in the good way for sure. The HE6SE has left me with a big smile on my face every single time I listened to it. It’s precise, a technical marvel and it does all that with a musical and engaging touch. How can you not love it?
MrSpeakers Ether 2
It’s been the first time for me that I got to listen to a MrSpeakers headphone on a truly extended period, and I have enjoyed it a lot. It’s a headphone that’s moderately easy to drive, but it sure likes to play with desktop gear. My preference goes to transistor amplifiers when it comes to pairing these cans, but a decent tube amplifier can unleash a musical and relaxing sound.
MrSpeakers has made a very nice headphone with the Ether 2, and it personally convinced me with the pitch black background, excellent imaging and resolution, coupled with a finely tuned balance across all frequencies.
It is light and very comfortable to wear for hours of listening fun, it stays secure on my rather small sized head and I can enjoy its sound without fatigue. What I am not very fond of though, are the earpads, which make me sweat and heat up my ears quite a bit.
It’s a weird thing to say, but the Ether 2 is a wonderful headphone that I enjoy coming home to after a long and hard day at work. It makes me forget all the stress of the daily big city life.
Hifiman HE-1000 (Will be replaced by the HE-1000SE)
Hifiman’s masterpiece impressed right from the beginning with its full bodied sound and very high detail level. The HE-1000 has a great level of detail and its layering, depth and width is exemplary. The HE-1000 produces (one of) the best bass I’ve had the pleasure to hear and the mids and treble are to die for. It’s a very expensive headphone but the sound quality you get in return is very high. Back in 2015 the HE-1000 already won the headphone of the year award on HFN and I still use it daily to listen to my favourite tunes. Last year Hifiman introduced a 2nd revision of this headphone with a more forward sounding signature and even more clarity and precision. An amplifier of the same quality is of course recommended but you won’t be disappointed with the end result. Top class sound.
Meze Audio Empyrean
Well well… What a headphone Meze Audio have come up with! If you’ve been following me or Headfonia for a while you know I always call the classic Sennheiser HD650 “the King”, and well it’s time for the King to retire. But don’t be sad, a new King is born. This is a headphone everyone will still be talking about in 20 years. The Empyrean just is incredibly good and it checks all my boxes, and then some. We’re pretty spoiled when it comes to good gear and good headphones, but this is one is extra special. Just listen to it with a good amp at home or in your office and I bet a lot of you will join #TeamEmpyrean right away. Who’s with me?
It’s no wonder that the Empyrean is going to the recommended buy list for headphones. It’s the easiest decision of the year and it more than deserves its spot. What a masterpiece. Double thumbs up.
Abyss Diana Phi
With the Diana Phi, Abyss has brought some of the performance of the 1266 Phi to a lower cost model. It’s undeniable that almost 4000$ aren’t cheap, but the return you get from this headphone is unlike any I’ve heard before. It offers you incredible speed, accuracy and resolution in a well organized stage and a sound that never fails to amaze me.
It might not be the most ergonomic headphone in the market, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t one of the absolute best headphones I have heard to date. It’s beautifully resolving, not missing a single beep and it’s impressively fast and accurate. All those aspects I consider the Abyss to lead in the current market. The Diana Phi takes listening levels from a small headphone to the next stage and competes against the best of the best.
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