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The 7 best audiophile headphones in 2024: Wired and wireless

What makes a pair of headphones truly “audiophile-grade” is way more than just loudness or bass levels: it’s about crafting an immersive listening experience defined by impeccable clarity, intricate detailing, and an expansive soundstage.

Comfort and build quality are just as important, since your headphones should allow for hours of uninterrupted listening.

This article will guide you through what I believe are the best audiophile headphones available today. Whether you’re looking to invest in a high-end model for critical listening or seeking a more budget-friendly option without compromising on quality, I’ve got you covered.

About the author

I’m an audiophile and audio engineer with over a decade of experience in the music industry, and a passion for high-quality headphones for audiophiles and music enthusiasts. When using and evaluating headphones, my main focus is on achieving great transparency in sound reproduction while also ensuring an immersive and emotionally engaging listening experience. I often use high-end equipment for deep-listening sessions and meticulously assess the headphones’ frequency response across the audio spectrum.

testing the Sennheiser HD 800 S headphones for audiophiles
Image: Sennheiser

How I chose the headphones for this list?

I picked out headphones that give you the biggest bang for your buck without sacrificing reproduction quality.

When evaluating the headphones’ sound, I focused on clarity, neutrality, and how well each pair handles different frequencies to make sure you’re getting an exceptional aural experience.

Comfort and built quality are crucial features that I took into account, meaning here you’ll find high-quality, performing headphones that are built to last.

testing the Focal Bathys wireless headphones for audiophiles.
Image: Focal

These are the best headphones for audiophiles, including wired and wireless options:

  1. Sennheiser HD 800 S
  2. Audeze LCD-5
  3. Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro
  4. Focal Bathys
  5. Grado SR325x
  6. HiFiMan Sundara
  7. Sony WH-1000XM5

Sennheiser HD 800 S 4.5

  • Type: Wired
  • Enclosure: Open-back
  • Fit style: Circumaural (over-ear)
  • Transducer: Dynamic
  • Frequency response: 4 Hz – 51 kHz (-10 dB)
  • Impedance: 300 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 102 dB
  • Connectivity: 1/4″ TRS, 4.4 mm plug
Sennheiser HD 800 S reference class open-back headphones
Image: Sennheiser

Carefully crafted by the experts at Sennheiser, the HD 800 S feature a circumaural design, and plush microfiber earpads ensure all-day comfort, making them an excellent choice for avid listeners and professional audio engineers alike.

They come with extra-large 56 mm steel-encased transducers that direct sound to the ears at a specific angle to craft a more natural and expansive soundstage. The open-ear design of the HD 800 S delivers impeccable transparency and low resonance that will satisfy even the most discerning audiophiles.

The remarkable frequency response of 4 Hz to 51 KHz ensures that you’ll capture every nuance, and with a total harmonic distortion of just 0.02% at 1 kHz at 100 dB, what you get is an extraordinarily uncolored and true-to-life sound reproduction.

Sennheiser’s absorber technology adds the cherry on top by eliminating the masking effect, providing clear highs at any volume and an impeccable soundstage.

What I like

  • Exceptional sound quality.
  • Comfortable even during extended listening sessions.
  • Premium build quality.

What I don’t like

  • Open-back design not suitable for noisy environments.
Buy Sennheiser HD 800 S at: AmazonSweetwater

Audeze LCD-5 5.0

  • Type: Wired
  • Enclosure: Open-back
  • Fit style: Circumaural (over-ear)
  • Transducer: Planar magnetic
  • Frequency response: 5 Hz – 50 kHz
  • Impedance: 14 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 90 dB
  • Connectivity: 1/4″ TRS
Audeze LCD-5 open-back planar magnetic headphones
Image: Audeze

The LCD-5 are a celebration of transparency, resolution, and speed in audio reproduction. Thanks to drivers engineered using award-winning Fluxor magnets, updated Fazor waveguides, and the innovative Parallel Uniforce voice coils, these headphones bring to life a sonic profile where every note, every frequency, and every transient is reproduced with stunning clarity.

Audeze really outdid themselves when it comes to the LCD-5’s acoustic chamber optimization. The sculpted earpads and acoustically transparent mesh minimize reflections and resonance, further enriching the headphones’ clear and open soundstage.

The new sculpted, internally sloped earpad architecture not only reduces unwanted resonances but also provides an ergonomic fit. The LCD-5 comes with a specially tuned cable made of directional OCC high-purity copper strands, with low capacitance and low resistance path to ensure that the signal from your amp to the drivers maintains absolute clarity and precision.

These over-ear, open-back headphones feature a Neodymium N50 magnet type and have a broad frequency response of 5 Hz to 50 kHz. Their total harmonic distortion is less than 0.1% at 100 dB SPL, making them one of the most transparent and clean-sounding headphones available.

In short, the Audeze LCD-5 offer an unmatched combination of advanced technology, sonic purity, and luxury comfort. If your budget allows it, then look no further than these exceptional headphones.

What I like

  • Unmatched sound quality with planar magnetic drivers.
  • Premium build quality ensures durability.
  • Comfortable.

What I don’t like

  • Their price makes them inaccessible to many.
Buy Audeze LCD-5 at: AmazonCrutchfield

Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 4.0

  • Type: Wired
  • Enclosure: Closed-back
  • Fit style: Circumaural (over-ear)
  • Transducer: Dynamic
  • Frequency response: 5 Hz – 35 kHz
  • Impedance: 80 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB
  • Connectivity: 1/8″ TRS, 1/4″ adapter
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones (80-ohm model)
Image: Beyerdynamic

If you’re looking for a perfect blend of high-quality reproduction, neutrality, and affordability, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro are a great option.

Designed with critical listening applications in mind, these headphones feature an 80-ohm impedance and a frequency response spanning 5 Hz to 35 kHz, ensuring that what you hear is incredibly accurate, whether you’re analyzing the nuances of a mix or rediscovering a timeless vinyl.

What sets the DT 770 Pro apart is its closed-ear design, which offers both passive noise isolation and the benefit of a bass-reflex system, making these headphones versatile for multiple audio environments.

They’re also perfect for long listening sessions, thanks to their soft velour ear pads and adjustable yokes that aim to provide a snug fit around the ears.

Built for the rigors of studio use, these headphones feature a construction that’s made to last, complete with a spring steel headband.

The DT 770 Pro meet the diffuse-field EQ requirements, which implies a level of sound neutrality and flatness ideal for professional monitoring.

Whether you’re mixing, mastering, or just keenly listening to music, the sonic capabilities of these headphones will not disappoint.

Read my colleague’s review on the DT 770 Pro headphones to find out more.

What I like

  • Affordable without compromising on sound quality.
  • Excellent comfort.
  • Versatile sound profile suitable for audiophiles and audio engineers alike.

What I don’t like

  • The closed-back design might not be for everyone.
  • Bulky.
Buy Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro at: AmazonSweetwater

Focal Bathys 4.5

  • Type: Wireless
  • Enclosure: Closed-back
  • Fit style: Circumaural (over-ear)
  • Transducer: Dynamic
  • Frequency response: 5 Hz – 50 kHz
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1, 1/8″ TRS, USB-C
  • Active noise cancellation: Yes
Focal Bathys wireless Bluetooth ANC headphones
Image: Focal

The Focal Bathys is the Swiss Army knife in the headphone world; it seems to do a bit of everything and does it remarkably well!

Focal’s first foray into the realm of wireless, active noise-canceling technology comes with an aluminum-magnesium M-shaped dome, genuine leather, and microfiber materials to make the headphones as comfortable as they can be.

Ergonomic design features like side-mounted control buttons and 5.1 multipoint Bluetooth connectivity offer a seamless and adaptable listening experience, allowing users to connect to multiple devices simultaneously within a 50-foot range.

The Bathys have two specialized active noise-canceling modes and a transparency mode, allowing listeners to balance their audio experience with their external environment. For those who want to craft their unique sonic experience, Focal provides a complimentary app to fine-tune sound controls, access equalizer settings, and more.

These headphones also come with Focal’s Clear Voice Capture technology, featuring eight microphones to provide articulate voice pickup for phone calls or interaction with voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Voice.

Let’s not forget its impressive battery life, providing up to 30 hours of active noise canceling on wireless playback, which can be extended to 35 hours with wired use via the 1/8-inch jack and an astonishing 42 hours through USB-C. If you’re short on time, the fast-charging feature can give you five hours of playback in just 15 minutes.

All in all, the Focal Bathys headphones offer an unparalleled listening experience that combines high-fidelity sound with the versatility of modern features.

What I like

  • High-quality sound with noise-cancelling and wireless features.
  • Balanced and versatile sound profile.
  • Comfortable for prolonged use.

What I don’t like

  • Competition is tough at this price point.
Buy Focal Bathys at: AmazonSweetwater

Grado SR325x 4.0

  • Type: Wired
  • Enclosure: Open-back
  • Fit style: Supra-aural (on-ear)
  • Transducer: Dynamic
  • Frequency response: 18 Hz – 24 kHz
  • Impedance: 38 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 99.8 dB
  • Connectivity: 1/8″ TRS, 1/4″ adapter
Grado SR325x on-ear headphones
Image: Grado Labs

The Grado SR325x headphones are reasonably priced but offer a sublime performance not unlike the one offered by high-end, much more expensive models. Hand-assembled in Brooklyn, these headphones are an embodiment of decades of artisanal craftsmanship and technological innovation.

The SR325x employs the company’s newest X Series drivers, featuring a redesigned magnetic circuit, lighter voice coil, and updated diaphragms. The result is a pair of headphones that deliver sound characterized by fast dynamics, balanced tonality, and rich warmth, backed by impressive bass and nuanced soundstage separation.

A revamped headband offers extra cushioning for extended listening sessions, and the headphones come with an eight-conductor connecting cable that’s not only robust on the outside but also features super-annealed copper wire on the inside to enhance signal purity and control.

With a sound pressure level of 99.8 dB, they produce ample volume without requiring excessive power. Moreover, the open-back, on-ear design offers a more natural, open soundstage, bringing to life a captivating listening experience that does justice to any genre of music.

While not the most comfortable headphones, the Grado SR325x celebrate traditional craftsmanship and combine it with modern engineering, providing a sound that’s remarkable for this price.

What I like

  • Classic, uncompromised sound quality.
  • Open-back design for an expansive soundstage.
  • Insanely affordable for what they offer.

What I don’t like

  • Lack of modern features like noise-canceling and Bluetooth.
  • Not very comfortable for extended listening sessions.
Buy Grado SR325x at: AmazonCrutchfield

HiFiMan Sundara 4.0

  • Type: Wired
  • Enclosure: Open-back
  • Fit style: Circumaural (over-ear)
  • Transducer: Planar magnetic
  • Frequency response: 6 Hz – 75 kHz
  • Impedance: 32 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 94 dB
  • Connectivity: 1/8″ TRS, 1/4″ adapter
HiFiMan Sundara planar magnetic headphones
Image: HiFiMan

The Sundara are a practical pair of headphones that offer a high-quality auditory experience. Celebrating the company’s experience with planar magnetic technology, these headphones feature a large, newly developed diaphragm that facilitates a broader frequency response range, bringing to life a listening experience that is both detailed and swift.

The Sundara feature a hybrid headband design with a weight-spreading strap. This allows for prolonged, comfortable listening sessions without sacrificing the unique aesthetic delivered by its sleek, matte black, all-metal headband.

Sound-wise, the HiFiMan Sundara headphones offer 94 dB sensitivity and 37-ohm impedance, making them extremely easy to drive.

Robust, performing, and reasonably priced, the Sundara are a valid choice for anyone serious about elevating their listening experience.

What I like

  • High-quality planar magnetic sound at a reasonable price.
  • Comfortable for extended listening sessions.

What I don’t like

  • Low frequencies lack depth compared to similarly priced models.
Buy HiFiMan Sundara at: Amazon

Sony WH-1000XM5 4.5

  • Type: Wireless
  • Enclosure: Closed-back
  • Fit style: Circumaural (over-ear)
  • Transducer: Dynamic
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 40 kHz
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, 1/8″ TRS
  • Active noise cancellation: Yes
Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless Bluetooth ANC headphones
Image: Sony

Soon after they came out in 2022, the new WH-1000XM5 became a household name in the world of premium headphones. With two cutting-edge wireless processing chips – the QN1 and V1 – along with eight dedicated microphones, these headphones promise an immersive experience with noise cancellation that adapts in real time to your surroundings.

Large earcups filled with plush padding not only improve the noise-isolating seal but also reduce the pressure on the sides of your head.

When it comes to sound, the WH-1000XM5 offer an expansive and articulate soundstage, further enhanced by the carbon fiber composite diaphragms. The result is a crisp high-frequency response and a more detailed sound overall.

Additional features like the Quick Attention mode, which allows you to engage with your environment without removing the headphones, and adaptive noise cancellation that adjusts based on your movement, position, and even altitude make the WH-1000XM5 a holistic audio solution for anyone who wants to experience audio at the highest level of quality.

What I like

  • Feature-rich with excellent noise-cancelling and wireless capabilities.
  • Balanced and versatile sound profile.
  • High comfort level for extended use.

What I don’t like

  • Plasticky design.
Buy Sony WH-1000XM5 at: AmazonCrutchfield

Final thoughts

The best audiophile headphones are the ones that make you rediscover the music you love.

While high fidelity, comfort, and modern features are all nice additions, I’d suggest you focus on what you feel as you listen to your favorite albums and ensure that your new headphones provide you with an immersive, evocative listening experience.

Finding the perfect pair of headphones is a journey worth taking, and hopefully, this guide has made your path a bit clearer.

Happy listening!

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