Selecting the best over-ear headphones is not an easy task. There are many things to consider and on top of that you have to account for individual preference and taste. That is why we have thoroughly tested several different headphones and selected those which truly shine above the rest.
What Are The Best Over-Ear Headphones?
1. Fostex TH900
Are you a bass fiend? If so, you don’t want to miss this review because the Fostex TH900 may have the best sub-bass of all headphones in the $1,000 price range. But even though bass is definitely one of their defining characteristics, it’s not the only one, and we describe all other positive qualities of these premium headphones in our review.
Probably the most eye-catching design element of the Fostex TH900 are the deep red housings, which are made from Japanese Cherry Birch and finished with Urushi lacquer to provide them with a long-lasting protection. Both the earpads and the wide headband have memory foam cushioning for excellent long-term listening comfort.
Because these headphones are meant for home listening, the very long cable ends with a 6.3 mm plug, but the packaging also includes an adapter to 3.5 mm. The cable is non-detachable, so you should be extra careful not to damage it because the repair would be difficult…
2. Sennheiser HD 800
According to Sennheiser, the story of the Sennheiser HD 800 began with a dream of developing headphones that go way beyond conventional equipment. To achieve it, the company had to develop a completely new transducer, using the very finest of materials. The result is called Sennheiser HD 800: a culmination of over 60 years of passion for perfect sound. Continue reading if you are curious to find out how such premium product sounds like.
In the design of the HD 800, the open design has been combined with the angled placement of the transducers to deliver a wide and open spatial presentation. The earcups are supported by a headband that consists of a sandwich design in which a metal layer is covered with…
3. Grado PS1000 Professional Series
When one of the best audio equipment manufacturers in the world introduces their new flagship product, you know that you are in for a threat. The PS1000 from Grado Labs represent everything that fans of this stylish company like and only make it even better.
It almost seems that Grado would like you to believe that the housing is made completely out of metal. In fact, it’s created using a combination of hand-crafted mahogany and a metal machined from a special non-resonant, very hard metal alloy. This combination insures that the earphone chamber is acoustically perfect and…
4. Philips L2BO/27 Fidelio
The L2BO/27 Fidelio High Fidelity Over Ear Headphones are Phillips’s way of penetrating the high-end portable listening market and convincing everybody that they have what it takes to provide their customers with the highest standards in sound and comfort.
Made for both indoor and outdoor listening, Philips felt that the semi-open construction would best reflect the nature of these headphones. The goal here is to clock as much outside noise as possible without sacrificing sound detail.
We have to say that the L2BO/27 make a very favorable first impression. The generous use of premium materials, including aluminum and fine leathers, makes you feel like you…
5. Meze 99 Classics Gold
The Meze 99 Classics Gold over-ear headphones are the successor to the 88 Classics, a relatively poorly-rated predecessor that failed to convince customer both in terms of the headphone’s sound quality and build. The Meze 99 Classics have a lot to prove, and the manufacturer doesn’t seem to be willing to take any chances.
Due to budgetary constraints, most headphones manufactures are forced to compromise between from and functions. Some produce great-sounding headphones that look like absolute garbage, while others do the exact opposite. So rare it is to find a pair of headphones that avoid this conundrum and does something different, something that’s worth everyone’s attention.
The Meze 99 Classics remind us of aged whiskey enjoyed by a renowned designer with a keen eye for detail and class. They also remind us of…
6. Sennheiser HD 650
What are some common marks of audiophile headphones? Could it be the use of hand-picked components, special acoustic materials, and exceptional engineering? Sennheiser definitely seems to think so, because that’s exactly what they say about Sennheiser HD 650 Open Back Professional Over-Ear Headphones. With statements such as these, we are really anxious to see how they perform in real life.
The Sennheiser HD 650 are built without any compromises. They work best at home, where their 9-foot Y cable terminated with a 1/4-inch plug doesn’t feel out of place. It can, however, be easily replaced with one of many aftermarket alternatives. The quality of their build is another step higher from the 5xx series of headphones. That says a lot because those headphones already offered a fantastic build quality and outstanding…
7. AKG K 701
AKG K 701 are aimed at listeners who appreciate an extreme degree of sound accuracy and excellent response. Reference headphones tend to be very precise in mid and high ranges and often lack a certain punch when it comes to bass. This is definitely true for K 701 and all bass lovers out there should be well aware of the fact that any reference headphones are just not meant for them. That being said, AKG K 701 are a beautiful headphones that seem to know exactly what their audience wants.
K 701 are a king when it comes to clean and articulate sound. No frequency stands out above any other which makes them easy to listen to, especially considering that they have a slight warm coloring to them. These headphones shine when you pair them with a high-quality audio recording and audio source. Classical recordings are especially enjoyable to listen to since every little nuance just comes to live and you can get absolutely lost in their mesmerizing sound.
Their white exterior with the self-adjusting full-leather headband looks and feel very expensive and high-quality. Earpads completely surround your ears and these headphones can sit on your head without any signs of discomfort for long hours. The headband may not seem to be the most comfortable in the world, but those big earpads take so much pressure from your head that the distinct lack of padding is virtually no problem at all.
As we already mentioned, AKG K 701 definitely lack in the bass department. You really cannot expect any brain shaking sub-bass out of these. Their goal is to provide you with an absolute precision and accuracy and heavy bass detracts from this.
AKG K 701 have a very well-defined audience they cater to. They are targeted at those who can appreciate a very precise and analytical sound that does not try to wow you with a punchy bass or unnatural mainstream sound signature. Instead, they deliver your audio exactly as it was recorded. This is something you will deeply appreciated with high-quality, expertly-made recordings and it is also something that you will detest with…
8. Sennheiser Momentum 2.0
The original Momentum headphones from Sennheiser redefined our assumptions about portable music listening and the new generation, called Momentum 2.0, wants to push the original concept even further. The proprietary 18-Ω neodymium transducers are designed to work flawlessly with all modern smartphones and portable audio players, allowing listeners to experience an audiophile-level of sound quality without having to replace their existing devices with specialized audio equipment coupled with portable amplifiers.
Sennheiser’s signature open-back design has been abandoned in favor of a close-back earcup design that gives away the portable nature of these headphones. It would be pointless for Sennheiser to create audiophile-grade portable headphones if listeners couldn’t…
9. Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro-250
There are several different versions of the famous DT 990 headphones. There are a 32 OHM and 250 OHM version, 250 OHM Pro version which we will take a look at in here and then there is a large 600 OHM version. The higher the impedance, the harder it is to drive the headphones and with 250 and 600 OHM headphones, it is definitely good idea to first check if your audio equipment is up to par with such a high impedance. 250 OHM headphones can be powered by most portable audio players, but they do benefit from an added amp.
At their core, The DT 990 Pro 250 by Beyerdynamic are a monitoring and studio headphones with an open design and carefully designed sound signature that offers a natural sound without any obvious coloring.
DT 990 Pro 250 use soft velour earpads instead of more traditional leather. These earpads are very comfortable and thanks to the used material, your ears do not get nearly as hot as they tend to do with leather earpads. DT 990 Pro 250 can easily be worn for long hours without any fatigue or stress points.
The build quality is very good thanks to a generous use of high-grade aluminum and other high-quality materials. You really do not have to worry about these breaking on you with a regular use and they also score high in the looks department. We especially like the grill on the side of earcups which has that timeless vintage look to it.
The sound from these headphones is very pleasing to listen to and lows, mids, and highs are all well balanced without any weak points. The bass is not as hard hitting as you get with many other headphones but instead it is much more well-behaved and articulated.
You have to consider that these are open headphones which means that there unavoidably will be a quite a bit of sound leakage. In fact, if you listen to at even a moderate volume, people all around you will be able to know exactly what song is playing and hear and understand all lyrics. The upside is, of course, an excellent sound quality which means that you have to decide ahead how much are sound leakage and isolation important to you and act accordingly.
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250 largely target the same audience as AKG K 701 do. If you are after analytical sound with a lot of details and an excellent sound reproduction then you can really choose either of them and be sure that you are getting a good deal for your money…
10. Sony MDRXB700 Extra Bass
Sony, the beloved electronics manufacturer, is widely known for making high-quality audio equipment that shines above the competition with its fantastic build quality and durability. The MDRXB700 are a rugged pair of headphones with large earcups for maximum comfort. If you are after a comfortable pair of headphones for use at home, these could be the right choice for you.
The Sony MDRXB700 are as luxurious as they are durable. The combination of the around-the-ear wearing style with the generous use of stainless steel really makes you feel like you got your money’s worth. Not only are all materials resistant to scratching and dust, but they are also easy to clean with nothing more than a microfiber cloth. The king-size ear cushions look ridiculously large and will probably convince you…
11. V-Moda Crossfade M-100
V-Moda Crossfade M-100 have a striking design that is clearly inspired by a metal armor worn by a knight. They are very popular among gamers because of their unique mix of great looks, comfortable design, easily added microphone, and above all impressive sound with clean and deep bass.
Their hexagonal design may not appeal to everyone, but we have to give them a credit for displaying a really high attention to details and an excellent build quality. M-100 are collapsible headphones and when folded, they are very compact and can easily be stored in the included carrying case for easy transportation.
V-Moda Crossfade M-100 headphones may seem like all show and no go type of deal, but you would be very mistaken. These headphones offer one of the very best mainstream sound signatures out there. They have a jaw
dropping bass that will make your toes curl up the first time you listen to it, and the rest of sound spectrum is just as good in terms of sound clarity and the level of detail these headphones exhibit.
V-Moda Crossfade M-100 come with a good set of accessories, but they do not provide you with a coiled DJ cable. V-Moda addressed this issue by essentially saying that DJs should use V-Moda’s straight cable because it will not accidentally press any controls and is just the right length.
We would definitely recommend V-Moda Crossfade M-100 headphones to all gamers out there. Not only is their aggressive design guaranteed to give you a few extra frags, but they also make every game sound amazing thanks to their large 50mm dual-diaphragm drivers and the patented SpeakEasy Mic Cable helps you connect with your friends…
12. Pioneer HDJ-2000MK2-K
The Pioneer HDJ-2000MK2 monitoring headphones strongly inherit from their predecessor and use its already successful design as a solid base upon which they innovate and improve. The result is a pair of DJ headphones with superb clarity and extremely comfortable construction.
The HDJ-2000MK2s take many design cues from their predecessor. Their key characteristic is a minimal design that doesn’t try to impress with flashy colors and over-the-top branding. Instead, you get a simple, sleek black exterior with a matte finish. We can confidently say that the headphones look amazing, and they didn’t fail to attract attention everything we took them outside. There’s just something about the stealthy look that makes people wonder.
It should go without saying that headphones for DJs have to be able to withstand some serious abuse. That includes everything from stage use, transportation, and accidental…
13. SOL REPUBLIC 1601-30 Master Tracks
With their sleek all-black design, the SOL REPUBLIC 1601-30 Master Tracks Over Ear Headphones are attractive and wonderfully minimalistic. Sol took their attention to design to the next level and added the compatibility with the REMIX collection of headbands. This way, you can easily create your own look that’s unlike anything else on the market.
We really enjoyed the clean, modern look of these headphones and found them to be a welcomed addition amidst the vast sea of colorful youth-oriented headphones and the typical professional look of audiophile headphones. The matte black housing is void of any unnecessary contours, interrupted only with an elegant logo on the sides. All plastic materials are thick and scratch-resistant. There are two…
14. Shure SRH840
If you are looking for a professional, closed, studio headphones then Shure SRH840 should be high up your list. Their main selling point is a pair of large 40mm neodymium dynamic drivers that are optimized for studio recording and critical listening. That sounds good in theory, but great headphones are not made out sound alone. Let us take a closer look at whether Shure SRH840 will earn their place among some of the best headphones your money can buy.
These headphones have “Shure” written all over them from the moment you first lay your eyes on them. Their sophisticated design screams a high-quality engineering and materials and this stands true in reality. There is a nice metallic Shure logo on the left side and on the top of the headband that nicely add to the overall design. A pair of color indicators helps you identify…
15. Monster Octagon
The next headphones on our list are Monster Octagon Over-Ear Headphones which are the joined creation of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Monster. They look mean and promise a heavy bass, excellent build quality, and unique style.
Most people who will choose Monster Octagon Over-Ear Headphones are probably going to look for an excellent bass and sub-bass frequencies. We are very happy to say that Monster managed to create headphones that have a very deep and well-defined bass and equally great sounding mid and high range frequencies. Hip-hop, bass-heavy EDM, rock, and many more music genres sound absolutely fantastic with these. It is definitely not a very accurate sound like what you get from SRH840, but it is an absolute blast to listen to.
They have a good sound isolation and they leak only a minimal amount of sound to your surroundings which means that it is not a problem to take them with your to any public place and create your own private bass-heaven.
We also like the use of high-quality material on earcups and headphones themselves. The matte finish looks great and the decorative stitching on the earcups gives these headphones a truly premium look.
The only major downside we have noticed is a lack of instrument separation in higher frequencies. This definitely caused by their strong focus on lower frequency spectrum and probably will not be any problem for most users.
Monster Octagon Over-Ear Headphones are for people who love a great sounding base and excellent build quality. The base has so much punch and life in it that it will make your whole body shake to the rhythm of your music. The included coiled cable and an extra cable with a very convenient microphone are a nice little bonus that definitely comes in handy in many situations…
16. Urban Vinyl Classics
Retro wooden design – check; large 50mm drivers – check; excellent comfort suitable for long home listening – check. Such are some of the individual elements that make the Urban Vinyl Classics so attractive. These headphones are for those who can appreciate the beauty of vinyl records and timbre of vintage instruments. And unlike most headphones with similar properties, the Urban Vinyl Classics don’t come with an absurdly high price tag.
It’s impossible to talk about these headphones without mentioning their wooden design. The textured wood coated with a generous layer of protective finish looks gorgeous and gives each pair its own distinct look. The headband is made out of plastic materials and metal reinforcement. Its memory foam padding is firm but…
17. Avantree Audition DEEP BASS
Comfortable Bluetooth headphones are always in high demand. Comfortable portable audio listening is not an easy thing to achieve, which is especially true if you don’t want to spend too much money. The Avantree Audition Bluetooth Headphones combine the latest Bluetooth technology with an optional audio line input. Will these headphones live up to our expectation, or will they fall short in one or several critical aspects? Read more to find out the answer.
The Avantree Audition headphones are available in a black and brown and a black and orange version. Both models are made to last, with a generous use of reinforced metal parts and soft leather padding. No matter how much you try to twist and squeeze the frame, you…
18. 1MORE MK801
The MK801 are a product of a Chinese company that was founded in 2013. 1MORE’s main focus is on audio products, especially headphones and in-ear headphone. The manufacturer has already shown the whole world that they are capable of creating world-class products with some of their previous creations, and they want to replicate their success with their newest pair of over-the-ear headphones.
The matte red metallic finish of the 1MORE headphones is very smooth to the tough and resistant to scratches. Customers are, unfortunately, limited to just this one color, which is quite surprising because the headphones would look great in a whole pallet of different colors and color combination. The use of TR-90 metal, allows the headphones to be twisted and bent without any damage, making them ideal for…
19. JVC HA RX900
The JVC HARX900 are a versatile pair of closed-back headphones with an easily recognizable home-listening DNA. Their overly large cans and non-removable cable would make portable listening a hassle, but the ethereal soundstage and warm sound signature are likely to make you want to take them with you everywhere you go.
Everybody who had the chance to see the JVC HARX900 pointed out how freakishly large they are. That’s because the housing needs to accommodate 50mm drivers and ensure that the durable construction is spread out on a large surface to prevent discomfort. A good news is that the large size doesn’t come with…
20. Philips SHP9500
Philips has created another pair of open-back headphones, the SPH9500, and their intention is to offer both the home and portable listeners a versatile solution that’s easy to drive using common audio players yet offers the same high audio quality as some of the most expensive models.
When you first put these headphones on your head, you will immediately notice the excellent comfort provided by the double layered headband padding and the breathable ear cushion for longer wearing comfort. The SHP9500 as one of the most comfortable full-size headphones at this price, and the self-adjusting headband always provides just the right clamping force. The open-back design ensures a good ventilation, but the earpads are not…
21. Koss Pro4S
Koss has noticed this gap and released the Koss Pro4S to fill it. These lightweight studio monitor headphones sport a very attractive, sleek design that’s unlike anything we usually see on the market. Add in the surprisingly affordable price of around $100 and you are looking at a deal that’s just too good to pass.
Plastics are cheap, but they are hardly as durable as aluminum. To compensate for this fact, manufacturers often slap several plastic layers on top of one another, creating bulky monstrosities that are painful to look at. The Koss Pro4S use aluminum construction for…
22. Skullcandy Crusher
The Skullcandy Crusher are a fantastic example of well-executed contemporary urban design. The sharp angles of the headband and the earcups are reminiscent of tall skyscrapers, and the matte black exterior makes the headphones look as if they were spray-painted by Banksy on a rundown building.
At first, we were skeptical about the headband padding, which bears an uncanny similarity to one particularly nasty medieval torture device. To our surprise, the experience turned out to be the exact opposite of torture. Even though the padding is limited in size, the material is sufficiently rigid to help your head maintain a safe distance from the hard plastic above it. The large, oval earcups feature thick earpads that stand miles above many other headphones in the price range. Our only complaint is that the headphones feel…
23. Akai Professional Project 50X
When designing the 50X, Akai wanted to create studio monitor headphones that could be easily packed into a small bag and used on-the-go. This alone has created several design constraints, forcing the company to use only the most durable materials while simultaneously keeping an eye on the weight of the headphones.
The result is an unassuming pair of all-black headphones with red mesh filters. The design is functional and elegantly blends with professional studio equipment. No shiny parts mean no nasty fingerprints, and even if you get a few smudges on the headphones, the included soft carrying case will remove them without you even asking.
Headphones hinges can either be a blessing or a curse. While the ability to fold the headphones flat for…
24. Creative Outlier Black
Creative Outlier Black Bluetooth Over-Ear headphones are designed in a way that will provide a great comfort and portability, yet you won’t have to take your phone out of your pocket. Simply activate Siri or Google Now with one touch on the side of the earcup. That way, you can access your music library, play and stop the music and answer your phone calls.
They offer wireless connectivity, which at the same time supports dual mode. Whenever you’re feeling like plugging that AUX wire in, you will be able to. Dual mode especially helps to prolong and extend the playtime. A sleek and modern design will provide your ears true comfort. The reason for that is the perfect combination of weight, comfort and fit. The cushion is foldable, and since they’re plush leather padded, you won’t even notice you’re wearing them for a longer period of time.
The lightweight of these headphones which was mentioned before makes Outlier Black the right choice for all-day wear. If you find yourself constantly glued to your headphones, you should definitely consider…
25. JBL E55BT Quincy Edition
Not all of us want Bluetooth in-ear headphones. They can be loud at times and they may not deliver the value and result you want. That’s why it can be a very good idea to give these a shot. They look great, sound great and overall you receive a very interesting and outstanding value for your money. You don’t really need something better than the JBL E55BT Quincy Edition Wireless Over-Ear Headphones, so they can be right up your alley!
JBL put a lot of focus on design and you can see that right off the bat. The overall quality is very impressive and the attention to detail is great for sure. The premium design is combined with a soft leather headband and form-fitting ear cushions. Basically, the audio experience is insanely good and you do receive a very nice, crisp experience all the time.
Since you have these over your head, results can be more than impressive. It really shines to hear this kind of unit and yes, the outcome is quite good all the time. the headphones have a tangle-free fabric cord if you want to use one. Adding in a cord is actually very good because some people won’t need to use these wirelessly. So it does make a lot of sense to obtain a very good value from something like this. It’s definitely worth your time and…
How to Choose The Best Over-Ear Headphones (Must Read Tips)
This article will help you choose the ideal pair of over-ear headphones corresponding to your individual preferences and requirements. Over-ear headphones are often considered to be the master league of portable audio, and it should come as a no surprise that many of the best headphones in the world use over-ear construction to achieve maximum sound quality and impeccable comfort.
Over-Ear Headphones Design and Construction
Over-the-ear headphones come in many different styles, ranging from modern to traditional-looking ones. A good example of a very contemporary design direction are headphones made by Sennheiser. In particular, the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless headphones mix minimal design approach with high attention to functionality with a subtle use of traditional materials. These headphones could easily be features next to products designed by Dieter Rams. Other companies, such as Bowers & Wilkins, appear to be almost lost in time. This huge variation in the appearance of over-ear headphones should give anybody many options to choose from. Of course, the sound quality is the most important aspect of any audio equipment, however, owning a beautifully designed piece of audio gear is a joy in itself.
Over-ear (also known as circumaural) headphones are often classified according to the design of their back enclosure. The enclosure can either be open, closed, or semi-open. Each type has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages, and it will play a big role in how the particular pair of headphones sounds and isolates from outside noise.
Open headphones allow for better airflow through earcups, which often translates into a wider soundstage and better instrument separation. Your ears don’t tend to get too hot – very useful during hot summer months. The major downside is their poor sound isolation and a high degree of audio leakage. Open headphones are definitely not a good choice if you live with a roommate, or if you plan on using your headphones in a public space, such as the library.
On the other head, closed back headphones are able to isolate plenty of external noise and give you the necessary silence of analytic music listening. If you work in an office or don’t want to disturb people around you during your daily commute, closed headphones are the version to pick. Their downside is a smaller soundstage. However, there are closed headphones that have a wider soundstage than some open headphones – you should read a reputable review or try them yourself.
The last type is called semi-open. The name accurately describes what you can expect. Headphones of this type are not completely open, but they also are not fully sealed. Air holes are incorporated into the design as the need to ensure the best sound performance. They are a good all-around compromise, which you can use for many different types of listening.
Look For Cable And Connector To Suit Your Needs
Modern headphones commonly use two different types of audio connectors. The smaller one measures 3.5mm (or 1/8”) while the larger one is 6.3mm in size (or 1/4”). The 3.5mm jack is the most common, and it’s also the one compatible with the vast majority of modern smartphone, tablets, and portable audio players. The 6.3mm jack is used primarily in high-end audio equipment and it dates back all the way to 1878.
Having a pair of headphones with an incompatible audio connector isn’t the end of the world. You can easily purchase a suitable adaptor for just a few dollars and simply live with the extra bulk. Of course, the best approach is to make sure that you are getting a suitable connector size for your particular application. If you listen from portable audio players or from your smartphone, you will definitely want to go for the regular 3.5mm jack. On the other hand, if your headphones are mainly for home use, then the 6.3mm jack could be more suitable depending on your audio setup. No version is any better or worst in terms of audio quality.
Over-ear headphones also come with different sized cables. The most common length is 1.5m, and some cables are as long as 3-4m. Longer cables are generally intended for indoor use with the home audio setup. You can always coil up the cable and hide it in your pocket, but this approach is uncomfortable and could lead to cable damage. If you are not sure, always go for a shorter cable. Buying a high-quality extension is very simple and cost-effective method of extending its reach. Some headphones allow you to easily replace the included cable for another one. That way, you can quickly customize your headphones exactly to your liking depending on where you want to use them. There is even a room for DIY modifications, as greatly exemplified by Audio-Technica ATH-M50x.
Comfort (Extremely Important Part When Choosing The Over-Ear Headphones)
Comfort plays a very significant role in any pair of headphones. Since over-ear headphones tend to be used primarily for extended, indoor listening, you should definitely pay close attention to any signs of discomfort. These could become unbearable after just an hour or two of continuous listening.
The overall comfort is determined primarily by the quality of cushioning and the clamping force applied to your head. Many headphones are initially very tight but loosen up after a few days or weeks of use. You can always leave them stretched across a stack of books overnight to accelerate this process. Your best bet is to read only reviews and discussion forums and find out what long-term users think.
Ear pads and most headbands are usually made out of synthetic leather or velour. Synthetic leather offers a superior sound isolation, but it can cause uncomfortable sweating. Velour is usually more comfortable, helps your skin breath, but doesn’t isolate as much, and can even cause degradation of sound quality.
The artificial leather used in many cheap over-ear headphones is frequently prone to cracking and falling apart over time. This is, fortunately, mostly not an issue with more expensive models from renounced audio manufacturers, who take great care about the quality of their products.
Last but not least, a comfortable memory-foam padding can make your ears feel like they are being cuddled by two soft pillows. Unfortunately, this is something that requires a good amount of personal experience and testing, since you cannot tell by looking at pictures alone.
Sound Quality (The major thing when making a decision)
Sound quality is often defined as a perceptual reaction to the sound of a product that reflects the listener’s reaction to how acceptable the sound of that product is: the more acceptable, the greater the SQ. This simply means that the more enjoyable we perceive the sound to be, the better it is.
Let’s take a look at some common terms used when we try to describe sound quality of any given pair of headphones:
Frequency response – is the total combination of bass, mids, and highs. It describes small pressure variations in the air and is measured in Hz and kHz. The human ear can hear frequencies between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. The same range is also considered to be the standard for most headphones. High-end headphones tend to have a wider frequency response, which can theoretically lead to improvements in sound quality for frequencies that are just on the edge of what human ear is able to perceive. Frequencies below 20 Hz are not audible, but they can be felt in your body.
Timbre – is also known as tone color and it gives the headphones their own unique sound and tone coloration. It’s determined by the harmonic content of a sound and the dynamic characteristics of the sound such as vibrato and the attack-decay envelope of the sound. One thing that can greatly influence its quality is the material of driver housing. Wood, in particular, is known for its ability to give headphones a very pleasant timbre that is distinctly unique from headphones made out of plastic materials.
Soundstage – describes how the center image of sound (let’s say vocals) is separated from the rest of instruments. Some headphones can give you the impression of being seated inside a large room or auditorium while others are much more intimate.
Bass (Lows) – is probably the most talked about aspect sound there is. A good bass reproduction necessitates a good amount of accuracy, power, sub-bass extension, and a complete lack of overflow into lower mids. Some headphones offer a head-snakingly powerful bass that is sure to impress all bass lover while others are more well-mannered and will appeal to those who value accuracy over the musical sound signature.
Mids – are very important when it comes to enjoyable vocals. Recessed mids can easily take all life out of the vocal performance and turn what would otherwise be an exciting vocal performance into a dry and boring affair.
Highs – require plenty of detail and airy presentation that is not cut off too short or lacks in precise articulation. You may have already heard about sibilance. It refers to a manner of articulation of fricative and affricate consonants. It manifests as sharp and uncomfortable sounds, which greatly increase how quickly headphones cause fatigue. Problems with sibilance are quite common with studio monitoring headphones.
Audio source – is often the most underestimated piece in the overall equation that makes for a great sound quality. The difference between a cheap no-name portable audio player and high-quality DAC can be tremendous. If you are ready to spend money on high-quality headphones be sure to also purchase a good audio source.
As you can see, there are many different aspects of sound, and factors that can influence it. At the end of the day, it will always come down to their unique mixture and subjective taste.
Built Quality and Durability (You Want Your Over-Ear Headphones To Last Longer, Right?
Build quality and the overall durability is very important for portable use. You want your headphones to be made out of high-quality materials that can withstand the test of time without breaking or showing extended signs of frequent use. You often get what you pay for, which is even more true for budget headphones. When manufacturers have to cut cost, they often choose to save money by using cheaper materials that look good on the first sight but are noticeably weaker when compared to high-end headphones.
Earpads in particular often become unusable as they get older. Fortunately, many companies sell aftermarket spare parts on sites like eBay and Amazon. Replacing a single part is much better than having to spend money and a brand new pair of headphones.
Make sure to check online reviews and discussion boards to find out what others are saying. Sometimes it takes a few months for problems to really start to show, which means that it would be too late for you to return them and get your money back. Even well-known manufacturers such as Sennheiser are not perfect. Their 5xx line of over-ear headphones is widely known for developing little cracks on the sides. The issue like this may not be crucial to the overall integrity, but it certainly takes away from the resell value.
How Much Money Should I Spend On Over-Ear Headphones?
The simplest answer to this question is not more than you can afford. There is a certain price point beyond which most people would not be able to tell a difference in sound quality. We estimate that this point is somewhere around $100-$200 for most headphones. For this price, manufacturers can use high-end materials and high-quality drivers tuned for the best sound reproduction possible. Sound quality is largely a subjective affair, and more detailed reproduction isn’t necessarily a better one.
It’s the lower end where a few additional dollars can make a dramatic difference in what you get. Budget over-ear headphones tend to cost between $20 and $50 and they can be a hit or miss. Problems with construction and durability are quite frequent, and good sound quality is not easy to find, either. There are, of course, some hidden gems, but even those have to make compromises somewhere to justify their very low price tag. You can also often encounter poorly made headphones from Asia that simply copy the design for western-made headphones and fit thy with cheap drivers.
Medium-priced headphones will cost you around $50-$100, and you can often find some very good deals in this price range. The quality also tends to be miles better than what you get from budget headphones.
Never let somebody tell you that you have to spend a lot of money just to get decent sound quality. These days, even moderately priced headphones offer a tremendous value, and can easily serve you for many years to come. Set a budget and stick to it. New headphones are constantly being released, and you can always upgrade in the future if you feel the need to do so.
Should I Go For Wireless Or Wired Over-Ear Headphones?
Wireless headphones are becoming more and more popular for both home and outside use. They are perfect for comfortable gym listening and people who like to move around. We can, generally, say that there is no inherent difference between the actual sound quality of wired and wireless headphones. However, there is a big difference in signal quality. Wireless headphones transmit an audio signal via infrared, Bluetooth, or 2.4GHz connection.
In past, many cheap headphones relied on Bluetooth connection with insufficient bandwidth for uncompressed data transfer. Modern devices commonly use aptX codec, which promises CD-like quality over regular Bluetooth. Owners of aptX, CSR, claim that “the aptX audio codec source material is transparently delivered over the Bluetooth link, whether it is stored uncompressed or in an alternative compression (MP3, AAC, FLAC) format.” Practical experience confirms this statement, and we would have no problem recommending modern Bluetooth headphones to our readers.
High-end wireless headphones that operate on the 2.4 GHz band are able to send uncompressed 24/192 signal, which, essentially, means that quality is never an issue.
The bottom line is that wireless headphones can sound just as good as their wired counterparts, but you have to be willing to spend the extra money, as a good pair of wireless headphones will easily cost you several hundred dollars.
Myths about audiophile-quality speaker cables aside, the most important advantage of wired headphones is their lower cost and ease of operation. You can plug them into any compatible audio port and never have to worry about something not working right. Their lack of additional electronic components also makes them lightweight and more suitable for prolonged listening.
If you are on a budget, always go for wired headphones. Low-end wireless headphones can have many hidden problems and sound quality issues that it simply makes sense to either wait and save some money for a better model or live with the cable.