The headphone market is competitive – some makers design for the ultimate swag, while others want the pinnacle of audio clarity. Here are five of the best over the ear headphones money can buy.
1. Sennheiser HD800
The HD800 is largely regarded as the most spatially accurate pair of dynamic (non-electrostatic) headphones in the world. It is renowned for its perfect simulation of depth and space – it is often compared to listening to loudspeakers. One of its major selling points is its true frequency response. If you are working with audio and you need to hear the most faithful representation possible, then these are the headphones for you.
Another benefit is their transparency – the imaging and projection of sound is so good, the headphones seem to disappear, leaving you alone with the sound itself (the isolation provided by the comfortable, large cups makes sure of this).
The HD800 is a definite buy for the faithful audiophile or music technician, but the accuracy of the sound may leave the average consumer wanting more – the typical flavor that most commercial headphones provide.
2. Grado PS1000
Grado’s flagship model – resplendent in a burnished wood/metal mix, these ‘phones provide smooth tone. The mix of wood and metal is said to impart the slightest of nuances to the sound, but without giving away any clarity. The design is supposed to provide the solid, natural sound that a wooden loudspeaker could.
If you want an organic bass sound that has that mahogany timbre, then be sure to give these ‘phones a listen.
3. Audeze LCD-3
The LCD-3 seems to take a slightly different tack to its ultra-high-end competitors, by presenting the user with a striking design of zebrawood (zebrano) earcups and Ethiopian lambskin earpads – placing style and comfort over the listening experience. The comfort and style are just a front, though.
The sound produced by this pair is phenomenal. Using planar magnetic headphone drivers, they require a lot of power, so it’s worth investing in a decent amp to really get the fullest sound.
4. Stax SR-009 Electrostatic Earspeaker
I know, all you’re thinking right now is ‘Earspeaker?.’ The somewhat clumsy title of this list’s reigning champion has a meaning that goes further than what appears to be a simple translation error. The Stax website states it is because, “such Ultra-High Fidelity devices for reproducing music can only be compared with the best loudspeakers, not other headphones”. Bigoted?Maybe. Their claims are nevertheless true. These headphones [EARSPEAKERS] are brilliant. They are top-of-the-line electrostatic headphones, and need 580V of power to operate correctly.
This coursing of electricity so close to one’s ears may seem a little discouraging, but any and all fears dwindle into non-existence as soon as you listen to what the SR-009 has to offer. Brilliant, sparkling treble and unsaturated, warm mids, coupled with perfectly precise and powerful bass are the only things that will be in your mind. As if that weren’t enough luxury, the SR-009’s cups are covered in “hand-crafted Lamb leather”.
If a downfall were to be mentioned, it would be the power requirements. These headphones require specific electrostatic amplifiers to run efficiently. The amps are produced by Stax themselves, so the compatibility between amp and headphone is seamless.
5. Muramasa VIII
If sheer bling is your thing, then look no further than these ‘phones. Weighing in at 1.8 pounds, they have heft, and the sound to go with it. The weight is because the headphones are made mostly out of stainless steel. The choice of material makes for a durable, sturdy pair of cups – more than capable of housing the tweeter and full-range driver present in each.
If unabashed luxury is what you’re after, GET THESE.
While all these headphones are sheer brilliance, if you’re looking for a more reasonably priced and quieter audio experience, be sure to check out the five best noise cancelling earphones.