Top 15 Best High Resolution Headphones In 2018 – Ultimate Guide
There’s no adventure like the pursuit of purest music. Any audiophile worth their salt has upgraded their gear at least once for ‘more accurate’ audio. The endgame is finding headphones that reproduces a track exactly as the artist meant it. While the terms ‘hi-fi’ and ‘hi-res’ are thrown around casually in the audio domain, very few headphones actually live up to the demands producing pristine audio. So we went searching for the ones that bring out the details with utmost precision. In this post, we cover the 15 best high-resolution headphones in various price ranges. They all aim for maximum fidelity amongst their group. Read our complete guide about the best noise cancelling headphones for kids.
What are high-resolution headphones?
The terms high-resolution (hi-res) or high-fidelity (hi-fi) are quite loosely-held in audio realm. The reason being, unlike video domain, there are no fixed parameters in music for the quality you would call high resolution. This is not only stark contrast between the evolution of audio and video sources:
Video quality started with VHS tapes that got us used to grainy picture. It subtly graduated to DVD quality which was a huge deal in the market at the time of its debut. Soon that too gave way to HD video which demanded special make-up on stars because of the exceptional detailing it provided. The progress of video quality didn’t stop at high definition either. Before people could gloat over Blu-ray, we were fawning over 4K and 8K. In a short period of time, video quality went from coarse picture to ultra high-definition that has newscaster looking for specialized make-up.
On the other hand, audio started off with vinyl records. This are the original near-lossless format. Since these flat discs were less convenient to store and carry, we switched to cassettes which traded off some audio quality. As media became more digital, they were replaced by CDs. Though they relinquished some of the warmth analog mediums, they were reasonably hi-fidelity. Read our latest guide about the best headphones for tv.
Then hit the biggest nosedive in audio quality, namely the MP3s. These were small files that hogged less storage space and bandwidth, both of which were expensive to come by in that era. Each song would take only 3-4MB storage. To store a song in such a small memory space, it has to be digitally compressed which means it loses much of its detailing. What’s left out is a shell of the original song with none of the nuances that frame its character.
As storage space is easier to come by in this age, we have better formats that preserve the audio quality as intended:
FLAC, WAV, AIFF, ALAC and DSD
How do they differ from MP3?
These high-resolution audio formats are substantially better in two aspects compared to MP3s: sampling rate and bit depth. To put it simply:
When an analog signal like sound is converted to digital form, it is converted to a series of 0s and 1s. For this, samples of the analog signal is taken at regular intervals to convert to digital. The number of samples taken per second is called the sampling rate. It is measure in Hz. The higher the samples taken per second, the more information is gleaned from the analog. So higher the sample rate, the higher the resolution of the audio.
Bit depth indicates the number of bits of information taken per sample. The higher the bit depth, the more dynamic it sounds.
In our opinion of audio, we consider 24-bit/96kHz audio to be high resolution. Such formats like FLAC, WAV etc. provide decent enough detailing to sound nearly as accurate as the original. They occupy at least 10-15MB per minute of the song. Since storage space and downloads is more affordable and freely available now, these formats are easy to adapt.
The source alone cannot improve your audio performance. Every device that the audio goes through should be capable of handling the high-resolution quality. This is where high-resolution headphones come in. These are devices that can relay all the details of a hi-res source audio. Here’s what we look for in such headphones:
Extension: We check that the audio response has good extension on both bass and treble end. We look for bass extension up to 5-10Hz without major roll off. The upper extension up to 40kHz is preferred. Although human ears can only hear in the range 20-20,000kHz, the vibrations from the extended frequencies add to the character of the audio.
Accuracy: High-resolution headphones stay true to the audio. They highlight as many details as mechanically possible by the drivers. They indulge in less audio experimentation that would sacrifice the details of the sound. The details should be presented intact but without too much emphasis on the harshness.
Neutrality: Audio that’s presented with a neutral signature is more accurate than the sculpted audio. So we always look for balanced headphones with a clean sound signature. In neutral tone, every area of the frequency spectrum has the same and the correct amount of emphasis. So bass or treble don’t sound more boosted than the mids.
Transparency: The high-resolution headphones should have transparent presentation especially in the midrange. This ensures that the details show through clearly. The spacious soundstage and instrument separation highlights the clarity and resolution of the audio.
Which are the best high resolution headphones?
There are a number of headphones with the ‘hi-res’ tag. We shortlisted the ones that produce truly accurate audio with plenty of detailing, on-point tonal balance and other worldly conveniences that users might need. They were ranked based on:
Resolution: We checked the detailing of the audio and all the factors that help these details shine through. High-resolution headphones should bring out more nuances out of the song when used with a discerning source and high quality source material.
Audio: While focusing on higher resolution, we also checked other features of the sound. Tonal balance and extension of audio are especially important for a full and dynamic audio response. We also weeded out headphones with bass distortion and sibilance in the higher end.
Comfort: If you are looking for high-resolution headphones, you are most likely a connoisseur of good music. Comfort is paramount when you listen to music continuously for long hours at a stretch. We checked that there was no undue headband clamp or earcup pressure over a period of time.
Features: Other features like Bluetooth connectivity, Active Noise Cancellation, detachable cable, foldability etc. get additional points. Both Bluetooth and ANC headphones are beginning to meet the audio standards of wired headphones.
Cost: We selected the best high-resolution headphones from various price ranges. While they differ in the scale of resolution, they all sound detailed and balanced in their price range.
TOP 15 BEST HIGH RESOLUTION HEADPHONES IN 2018
The Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro Studio headphones are a professional upgrade on the DT990 and DT880. These balance price against neutral yet dynamic sound. It engages the finest German engineering and has the build quality to show for its price. The accessories are well-thought out so Beyerdynamic doesn’t just market the name for the high price tag. These reliable performers take the top place on our best high resolution headphones.
Design and Features
The Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro Studio headphones weigh a solid 370g, a weight that they distribute evenly across the headband. The body is carefully crafted in their German factory out of aluminum and high-impact plastics. The key areas like hinges are done in metal. They go for a subtle matte black color code. The geometrical pattern on the earcups hides minute grille that covers the laser-cut metal drivers. These are open back headphones. The earcups are round and mounted with detachable pads. These come with two sets of velour earpads which offer slightly different audio responses: balanced and analytical. Detaching and replacing the earpads is a process that requires some getting used to. It could have been made easier. On the other hand, the velour is both breathable and soft on the ears which makes them perfectly comfortable for long hours of use. The earpads are made of quality memory foam that foam retains its shape over time.
These high-resolution headphones have a broad headband, sheathed and stitched in protein leather. They balance the weight without a strong clamp. They are easy to wear without physical fatigue for hours but you will not forget you have them on because of the weight. These headphones come with two single-sided detachable cables: a 3m straight audio cable and a 5m long coiled one. The cables are thick and rubbery which prevent tangles. These terminate in aluminum 3.5mm jacks and come with two 6.3mm studio adapters. On the headphones side, you have mini XLR connectors which are flexible but don’t come off easily with tugging. A vinyl case accompanies them.
The Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro Studio hi-fi headphones are rated at 250Ohm with high sensitivity. They need an amp but they are easy to drive with any headphone amp. These are neutral yet extremely lively headphones. The analytical pads are for critiquing the audio. The bass is agile and fast on its feet. The transient response is smooth and on point. It’s meaty and carries its weight with grace. The Balanced pads have more vents which brings a distinct rumble into the bass. It is still balanced and tonally fair. But there’s an extra thump in the low and mid bass frequencies. This complements the hip hop and EDM genres.
The midrange is beautifully transparent and does justice to all vocals: males and females. Unlike other audiophile headphones, these do not push the mids forward. The upper bass and upper mids are on point, so female voices sound calm and collected. The mids are consistent and hit the correct timber at every point. The lack of coloration never takes away the musicality or fun from the sound. These headphones carry the Tesla drivers, so treble is their strength. They can sparkle without any sibilance at any volume. The soundstage is decent and reminiscent of a pair of headphones.
- Neutral but fun
- Agile and musical sound
- Tesla drivers
- Detachable tuning earpads
- Detachable cables
- Slightly heavy
- Replacing earpads should be easier
The Focal Clear high-resolution headphones are their first true success. While both Elear and Utopia took the audiophile world by a storm, neither of them were as high-fidelity as the Clear. These are trendsetting headphones in terms of design. They are a highly engaging listen with none of audio aberrations of the previous two models. Although pricey, they are where the buck stops for many enthusiasts looking for the best high resolution headphones.
Design and Features
In a detour from tradition, Focal Clear high-resolution headphones are done in subtle metallic gray. A lot of aluminum has gone into the construction, so it rakes up the weight to 450g. But this is a beast of a headphone and it can take a beating. The earcups are covered by s strong metal grille at the back. There’s a finer grille shielding the drivers which filter out the dust. The drivers are angled in the housings. The earcups are mounted with plush memory foam pads sheathed in soft perforated microfiber. This keeps the ears cool over long periods of use. Since the driver is angled, the ears get more room inside the earpads to snuggle. The earcups have a small degree of rotation which enables snug and adaptive fit. The headband is broad and amply padded. The earpads are easily removable but settle stably on the ear pieces.
These hi-res headphones come with three detachable cables, all of which connect via a 3.5mm port to the headphones. There’s one 1.2m cable terminating in a 3.5mm plug. There are two 3m cables: one ending in ¼” TRS jack and one in 4-pin XLR for balanced playback. These are OFC copper cables coated in woven cotton. These are slightly stiff but still better than the Utopia and Elear cables. These come with a smart case where you can store the headphones and the cables once unplugged.
The Focal Clear hi-fi headphones ditch the frequency spikes that made the previous Focal headphones so popular. What we receive is a pair of cans that has tonal balance on point of perfection. This makes their playback consistent across rhythm and genres. In spite of being an open-back headphone, these have deep rumbling bass with great extension. They roll into sub bass with full power and the roll-off isn’t anywhere as bad as an open-back dynamic headphone. It’s clean and meaty enough for all genres.
Midrange again stays fantastically balanced with no push in the upper mids. The midrange clarity and resolution is superior to the famed Sennheiser HD800. They play without the slightest hint of sibilance in female vocals and brass instruments. The treble has been brightened to increase the sense of clarity. This might sound a little less coherent in occasional songs but the resolution is same across the board. The soundstage is open but relatively intimate.
- Excellent tonal balance
- Highly resolved
- Engaging performance
- 3 detachable cables
- 55Ohm impedance only
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Sennheiser HD800S Reference hi-resolution headphones are a slight upgrade on the already stellar HD800. They have toned down the StarTrek look and created a classier headphones with a less fatiguing sound signature. These are still highly resolved but they emphasize musicality over harshness. They are highly balanced with a very engaging and realistic sound. These land straight in the best high resolution headphones list.
Design and Features
The Sennheiser HD800S Reference headphones use a mix of aluminum and high-grade plastic to balance weight, durability and auditory results. The headband has an aluminum plate marked with the logo and serial number on the arch. There’s plush padding along the arch with Alcantara sheath. This is a micro-suede material which remains breathable in summers and feel soft on the head. The earcups are larger than average ears and sit nicely around the ears. These have an aluminum weave backplate to keep the drivers safe from prying fingers. At 330g they are lighter than the usual audiophile fare. The large earcups divide the weight quite evenly around the ears,
These hi-res headphones have two detachable cables: one is a 3m cable that terminates in a 6.3mm studio jack and another balanced cable that plugs into both sides. This is compatible with Sennheiser’s own HDVD800 amp. The balanced cable itself is an expensive accessory that isn’t available with the cheaper HD800. The cables are braided for extra durability. The open back of the earcups ensure that there’s a thoroughfare of audio through them. These need to be used in a quiet environment to avoid ambient noise.
The Sennheiser HD800S hi-res headphones sound exceptionally open and very very huge. They have the realistic sound that mimics surround sound without the tacky hollowness that hounds virtual surround. They emulate the feeling of a wide open concert hall with the artist playing close to you. They come closest to replicating the effect of floor-standing speakers. The result is that they are highly engaging and involve you in the presentation of the audio.
These hi-fi headphones have the tightest bass we have seen of any dynamic driver cans. The bass is served like caviar, filling and alluring but the plate is never full. It can produce powerful bass but never impactful like the bass-heavy cans. The midrange has a vivid presentation in the large soundstage. They are ever so slightly recessed which takes the edge of high-pitched vocals and brass instruments. They are actually slightly less resolved than the HD800. But they are much less fatiguing so you can listen to your favorite tracks over and over again without the brightness tiring out your ears.
The treble is the biggest improvement of HD800S over the 800. The latter had overtly bright treble which added fatigue to the audio over a period. The 800S has toned down the extension and micro-detailing of treble a bit. They are still revealing but in a way that allows you to enjoy the music.
- Tonally balanced audio
- Revealing and engaging
- Tight bass
- Lightweight and comfy
- Balanced detachable cable
- Plastic construction may feel less-than-premium
MrSpeakers is a smaller player in the market of premium headphones but it has made quite the mark with its Ether Flow. The AEON, available in both closed-back and open-back options, is one of their more affordable headphones. It is perfectly tuned for analytical hearing with its highly resolving nature and impeccable tonal balance. The build quality and comfort impressed us enough to earn them a top place in our best high-resolution headphones list.
Design and Features
We chose MrSpeakers AEON Flow closed-back headphones for our high-resolution list. Most of the open-back headphones tend to radiate a lot of the music out. It’s nice to have a closed-back pair with decent noise isolation for personal listening. The AEON is impressive in its design in spite of the low weight. They average 340g without the cable because of their high-impact plastic build. The earcups are tapered towards the bottom to resemble the shape of a human ear. These fit comfortably around large ears. The backplate of the ear pieces has a metal mesh which is covered in carbon fiber transparent shield. The effect on aesthetics is simply stunning. The rims of the earcups are highlighted in glossy black.
These hi-fi headphones use a suspension design for the headband. It consists of a flat leather band to distribute weight and two memory nitinol cables to connect the ear pieces. This type of headband adjusts itself when worn. The earcups are mounted with pillowy plush pads and sheathed in vinyl. These headphones come with a dual-sided detachable cable which is braided for protection against elements. It does tend to be a bit stiff and retains the memory of folding. It terminates in a 3.5mm jack and the AEON comes with a 6.3mm adapter. A smart carrying case comes with the AEON which has been repeatedly praised for its looks and ability to protect the headphones.
The MrSpeakers AEON Flow high-resolution are planar magnetic headphones. They are extremely revealing and flat. They will appeal to the true purists who like to critique their music. These come with two foam inserts which should be mandatorily used in our opinion. They lend the bass some more weight in the mix. Without the inserts, they may seem a little bass-light to listeners who prefer a warm sound signature.
They already derive their fast transient response from the nature of their drivers. The AEON extends quite deep into the lower frequencies, compared to Ether Flow, and delivers sub bass with good texture and definition. The midrange is flat and extremely clean to the point of sounding a little dry with some songs. Using the foam inserts liven things up much. There as many takers for the clinical sound signature as there are for the livelier tone of AEON. Again these closed-back headphones do not fall for the dip gimmick used in Focal Elears and maintain their tonal balance throughout. The treble is presented without any sibilance.
The soundstage of these hi-fi headphones is intimate since they are closed-back. But it has excellent imaging and separation which makes for spacious sound.
- Clinical or lively
- Foam inserts to tune audio
- Highly revealing
- Extremely comfy earcups
- Adjustable headbands
- Stiff cable
- Bring the harshness of audio out
The Sennheiser HD650 high-resolution headphones are famous as they are infamous. Famous as audiophile cans that have been in the market for 15 years now. Infamous for the enigmatic ‘Sennheiser veil’. While the debate rages, we characterize the HD650 as highly enjoyable and warm, resolved headphones. After the almost clinical MrSpeakers AEON, these are a relief to the fatigued ears and the best high-resolution headphones list.
Design and Features
The Sennheiser HD650 hi-fi headphones were designed to look timeless, probably given the continuing reign of their predecessors, the HD600 in the market. Yet they are cooled looking than both HD600 and HD580. The muted silver body is aligned across subtle curves and lightweight comfort. These are open-back headphones so the back of the earcups is covered in firm silver grille. The earcups are oval and easily house large ears. These are mounted with moderately deep cushions. They use velour earpads for maximum breathability and comfort. The headband has similar ventilated padding along the arch. The ear pieces can swing forward and hug the ears.
These hi-res headphones have a 3m detachable cable that connects to the earcups via strong but proprietary connectors. The HD650 has softer cables than the HD6500. But the cord terminates in a 6.3mm plug and comes with a 3.5mm adapter. These are primarily meant to be driven with an amp, preferably a tube amp, because of their 300 Ohm output impedance. The high impedance enables it to be driven by any amp and lowers the distortion levels.
Of all the high-resolution headphones covered here till now, the Sennheiser HD650 has the most laidback audio. But it still manages to pack a tonne of detailing, so you can both enjoy and appreciate the audio. These are the warm-sounding, dark headphones which are fuller and richer than HD600. This extra plumpness to the audio is often characterized as the ‘Sennheiser veil’. But in a list full of bright and clear headphones, the HD650s enables long hours of fatigue-free listen at a budget.
The HD650 hi-fi headphones are a little more refined than the HD600. The detailing is spot-on for a casual listener and the audiophile who covet warm sound signatures. The bass is tight and fast. It has a bit more flab to it than the HD600 which makes the HD650 sound more lush. The mids immediately grabs attention. These are smooth, nuanced and highly musical. Only to very practiced ears would they sound veiled. In that case, the HD600 is a slightly better choice. There’s no coloring to the mid and it sounds very natural and real. The treble has been smoothened to remove the edge at the top frequencies. While this trades-off on some detailing, it makes listening that much more fun.
Although open-back, the soundstage is slightly intimate in the HD650s. While they don’t sound as 3D as the HD800, they are very open and spacious.
- Rich, lush audio
- Fatigue-free listen
- Warm and detailed
- Detachable cable
- Very comfortable and lightweight
- The dreaded ‘veil’ compromises some details
Audeze LCD4 are the flagship high-resolution headphones for this brand. They are ridiculously expensive and you get what you pay for. These are planar-magnetic can carved out of real wood. They have put their most advanced audio chops into creating nano-scale films that are lighter than air. The faster response and the deep, clear imaging is as resolved as the best high-resolution headphones get.
Design and Features
The Audeze LCD4 hi-fi headphones are huge yet graceful beasts. They have gone for an unconventional dance of traditional and modern here, pairing wood, chrome and carbon–fiber. The earcups are made of 30-year old ebony wood with its dark brown finish. The back of the earcups have an open grille in shiny chrome plated finish. This might be a little too glitzy for the reclusive audiophiles. The headband is done in carbon fiber, a lightweight but strong material. This is a suspension-type self-adjusting headband. It evenly spreads the weight of the cans around the head. The clamping force is much less than the LCD3.
Like most Audeze headphones, these are quite heavy at a whopping 700g. The comfy and lavish earpads will not make you forget that you are wearing a weight on your head. This is the single, most crippling design flaw of these expensive headphones. But if you have a large head and can take the weight easily, these are worth the investment. The double-sided cable is detachable. This is a doubly-reinforced cable that connects to the era pieces via mini-XLR jacks. A highly protective hard case accompanies them.
The Audeze LCD4 hi-res headphones carry nano-driver, lighter than the air they displace and thinner than hair. These are undoubtedly the most detailed headphones on the list. The light drivers allow uber-fast movements that translates to excellent decay and rhythm-keeping. Their unnaturally natural soundstage is the experience of a lifetime. The soundstage is solid with stunning width and depth that the listening experience is almost surreal.
These hi-fi headphones subtly push every single detail they can garner into the track. Each instrument and layer of music gets its space yet they come together seamlessly into a coherent stream of music. The bass is solid and has more slam than most neutral headphones without sacrificing balance or detail. The midrange is clean and transparent. It benefits from the spacious soundstage and may sound a little recessed because of the impactful bass.
The treble definition is much better than the past Audeze headphones and they are extremely accurate in their presentation.
- Biggest soundstage ever heard
- Stunning detail
- Bold bass
- Non-fatiguing and fun
- Detachable cable
- Very heavy
We believe high-resolution headphones should be for everyone, including the smartphone-junkie on-the-go. Looks like Bower & Wilkins thought the same. The P9 Signature is a hi-fi headphone that’s geared towards people who use portable music players. They are closed-back, portable and foldable. And they prove that an active and busy life is no reason to miss out on good music. Hence, their place in the best high-resolution headphones list.
Design and Features
The B&W P9 Signature hi-fi headphones are an exercise in brown leather and silver highlights. Combines with their trademark rectangular earcups of the P-series, these are truly unique in their style. These are a luxury product and the price is partly invested in design unlike your average audiophile cans that invest in audio and comfort only. The headband and the earcups are finished in Italian Saffiano leather. There’s softer leather on the cushions on both headband and the earcups. The earcups are decoupled from the headband to minimize vibrations. The earpads allow large ears to sit deep inside without touching the drivers.
These hi-res headphones have a brushed aluminum frame with chrome accents. The arms fold inwards to pack them in a portable form. The cable plugs into a single earcup. You have a choice between two cables: a 5m audio cable and a regular cable with inline control for playback. A 6.3mm adapter and carry case are also packed with them. The earpads are made of thick memory foam and this closes out most of the ambient noise.
The B&W P9 Signature high-resolution headphones are rated at 22Ohms so they can be easily driven. The drivers are slightly angled inside the earcups to create a speaker-like image of the sound. They take some time to burn in but the sound really opens up afterwards. The bass is highly energetic and punchy. It delivers maximum impact without bleeding into the mids or veiling the vocals. The sound is soothingly warm without flabby.
These hi-fi headphones have a spacious midrange. The mids are highly transparent delivered with intricate nuances. They makes you want to revisit the older nuances. The treble is detailed and extends well into 30kHz. The soundstage is the largest we have heard in closed-back headphones. The stereo separation is also remarkable and makes full use of the space in the stage. These are very dynamic headphones that respond well to every genre. If you can nitpick about their audio, you are stepping into extreme purist territory.
- Warm detailed audio
- Punchy and dynamic
- Wide soundstage
- Stylish and foldable
- Detachable cables with inline control
- Premium price for the build
Beyerdynamic Amiron high-resolution headphones are where the buck stops for us personally. These are reasonably priced for a hi-fi pair, ridiculously comfortable and highly musical. In fact, there are no complaints of note against these. These are mostly for enjoying music in a quiet space with a quality amp setup. They are the better version of Beyerdynamic T90, their flagship and that’s saying something about one of the best high-res headphones.
Design and Features
The Beyerdynamic Amiron Home hi-fi headphones look handsome right off the bat. They have an understated elegance in silver and black. The matte black body is marked by an open silver grille at the back of the earcups. They are mounted on brushed aluminum yokes. The headband is thick and wide. The earcups are large and circular. They are mounted with deep earcups sheathed in microvelour and Alcantara, both are soft and ventilated materials. These weigh only 340g without a cable, so Sennheiser has been able to manage weight against durability effectively. These are built to last and they feel robust in our hands.
These Beyer hi-res headphones have a detachable cable. This 3m cord is thick and rubbery and it has plenty of give. It ends in a 3.5mm plug on both sides so it’s easy to replace. It comes with a 6.3mm adapter screwed on. The cable looks standard but it doesn’t have memory retention or microphonics issue. It comes with a sturdy carry case with space to keep the amp.
The Beyerdynamic Amiron Home high-resolution headphones are extremely pleasing to listen too. They respond to the emotion of the song. If the AEON Flow can be characterized as clinical, these are the opposite end on the spectrum. The Amiron maintain a warm but neutral signature. They get you to enjoy any kind of music with consistent clarity. The bass is impactful and meaty. It moves with grace and still has the slam that helps rock and metal genres. The Tesla drivers remain firmly in control of the lower frequencies.
The strong bass also goes helps the mids sound rich and full. They are highly musical and get you tap your feet. The treble is smooth and sparkly. The Tesla drivers are equipped to deliver sizzle without sounding harsh on the high end.
- Warm and very musical
- Rich and full-sounding
- Sparkly non-sibilant treble
- Very comfortable
- Detachable cable
HiFiMan Edition X V2 hi-res headphones are meant to be driven from portable music players. That’s their level of confidence with one of their most expensive headphones. These are uber-comfortable open-back cans that enable you to enjoy music off of any source. These are the laidback version of the Sennheiser HD800. In spite of the reign on brightness, these resolve well enough to be on the best high-resolution headphones list.
Design and Features
The HiFiMan Edition X V2 headphones are full-sized headphones made out of lightweight high-grade plastic. It might be slightly disappointing to see a plasticized build at this price point but it helps keep the weight down. The earcups are large teardrop-shaped. These are wider at the top and align easily with large ears. The earcups are mounted with leather earpads with velour along the flat surface that touches the skin. The earcups are open back with large horizontal grille. The headband is of suspension type with a metal connecting band and a leather strip to support them on the head.
These hi-res headphones weigh only 399g which is relatively moderate for this category. These come with two detachable cables. There’s a 1.5m cellphone cable that terminates in a 3.5mm plug and a 3m cable that ends in a 6.35mm plug. A 6.3mm audio cable also accompanies them. The cables connect on the headphone side via 2.5mm jacks.
The HiFiMan Edition X V2 headphones display the usual low distortion and excellent transient response of planar-magnetic drivers. The lower frequencies benefit the most from this. They are punchy, dynamic and strong without getting in your face. The bass plays a strong supporting role without stealing the limelight from other parts of the spectrum. The midrange is warmed by the bass but never bullied by it. So you have clean midrange separation from mid-bass. This ensures that the vocals and strings are clean and transparent. The mids are presented in a wide open soundstage, so they sound even clearer.
The audio imaging is another spot-on trick in these headphones. The reason why they sound so accurate and resolved is that they place the stereo image spaciously in the soundstage such that you can pinpoint the sonic location of every instrument. The treble is exceptionally detailed and extended. But it doesn’t get in the face with its crisp presentation.
- Wide soundstage
- Transparent and airy
- Stereo imaging
- Detachable cables
- Accurate and crisp treble
- Plastic construction might feel less-than-premium
Oppo PM3 hi-fi headphones go down in history as one of the most affordable planar magnetic headphones that’s built like a luxury product. They have been so thoughtfully designed both electronically and sonically that we marvel at their price tag. Their spot-on audio and portability clinch them a place in the best high-resolution headphones list.
Design and Features
The Oppo PM3 hi-fi headphones are designed mostly of plastic with metal in all the right places. These are outdoor headphones with a closed-back design. In fact, these are only planar magnetic headphones that we know of that’s non-dorky enough to be worn in public. These have rather flat and large racetrack oval earcups that can easily cradle large ears. These are mounted with plush and deep pads sheathed in high quality pleather. This type doesn’t peel off easily. The headband is moderately built and padded too. These are highly comfortable for long-term listening. The plastic parts don’t have any creaking like that of MSR7.
The backplate of the earcups have brushed aluminum plating. The bold yet minimalistic design sets the PM3 apart from the competition. Another one of PM3’s strong suits is noise isolation. These isolate against maximum amount of ambient noise that a passive headphones physically can. These are truly portable in that they come with four different cables. Two of these are smartphone cables: one for Android devices and Apple devices each. The others are a 1.2m long audio cable and a 3m one. These are pretty light for planar magnetic headphones.
The Oppo PM3 high-resolution headphones have a very natural and sweet audio signature which evolves after a period of listening. The excellent noise isolation helps them sound full even without excess bass or any bass bump at all. They offer low distortion and exceptional transient response. This shows in the fast attack of the bass in spite of its palpable power. The midrange is slightly forward, transparent and airy. This gives it the delicately natural touch that even Sennheiser Momentums find difficult to recreate.
To keep themselves sounding clear, they focus on clearing the bass and midrange instead of boosting the treble like most headphones do. The soundstage is reasonably big for a closed-back headphone.
- Closed-back portable
- Lightweight planar magnetic
- Very natural sound
- Detailed and accurate
- 4 detachable cables
- Pleather in a luxury set might be an eyesore
The Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 high-resolution headphones are a marked improvement on their popular M50x headphones. While the M50x offered great decadent sound, the MSR7 are truly high-resolution headphones that value accuracy. It also helps that they are super-comfortable, portable and have excellent noise isolation for public use. These get a well-deserved place in the best high-resolution headphones list.
Design and Features
The ATH MSR7 high-res headphones look much better than their famous cousin, the M50x. They have shorn down the industrial image with a slimmer headband. The earcups are large racetrack oval but much more low-profile. The backplates are done in aluminum with metal bevels. They remind you more of the Sony MDR series than the M50x. The earcups and headband are mounted with memory foam padding which adapt to the shape of your head. The clamp pressure is just enough that these don’t slip off your head while jogging but not so much that you feel that you have them on. The earcups are sheathed in leather. They fold flat for easy storage in travel cases.
These hi-fi headphones have detachable cables. These are geared for portable use with a 1.2m smartphones cable. This has an inline control with a single button and mic that work with both Android and Apple devices. The other is a 3m cable for studio use. Both are quality fare. They have non-proprietary 3.5mm jack on both sides. So you can easily find a replacement.
The MSR7 is a possibly the only true high-resolution headphone in this price range. And it has the added advantage of being an outdoor can. These tone down the extra enthusiastic bass of M50x and trade it for sublimely beautiful mids and an accurate sound signature. They are by no means bass-light. But they have a punchy and fast bass that carries its weight effortlessly. It has a quick attack and it creates a nice base for the midrange.
Since these are a Japanese product, they have paid special attention to the mids, especially female vocals. They are hauntingly natural and peppered with the intricate nuances that makes them so accurate. The treble is bright without being harsh or sibilant. But the strong nature of treble brings out the imperfections of the recordings and exposes the compression in formats like MP3. So we recommend using high quality sources and source material with the MSR7. These hit the nail on the head with stereo imaging too, adding to their accuracy. Soundstage is spacious for a closed-back can.
- Accuracy and detailing
- Closed-back and decent-looking
- Detachable cables
- Midrange might not be to everyone’s taste
Accurate sound is not just the territory of ugly-looking open-back headphones anymore. There are Bluetooth headphones that can play a reasonable amount of details for a casual listener. It also helps that they are chock-full of features including active noise cancellation. These are you travel-friendly best high-resolution headphones.
Design and Features
The Sony WH1000MX2 ANC hi-fi headphones are a marginally more stylish pair compared to the Bose QC35s. These are lightweight and minimalistic with racetrack oval earcups. They are mounted with comfy earpads meant for long hours of intercontinental flight. The controls are mostly through touch. The chief amongst them being the ability to cup the right earcup and immediately muffle the music and ANC so that you can converse. This is very useful while travelling.
These hi-res headphones also feature a highly customizable Active Noise Cancellation feature. You can alter its level based on how much you want to hear. It can be tweaked such that you only hear voices from outside. The headphones carry pressure sensors. When enabled, they measure the atmospheric pressure and the fitment of the headphones around your head and tailor the audio to maintain volume and richness of tone. The battery lasts 30 hours with ANC and Bluetooth and 40 hours on ANC wired mode. These comes with a robust companion app.
The Sony WH1000MX2 ANC hi-res headphones are the first headphones that effectively level up to Bose QC35 ANC. But Sony does it better with more detailing and a lively sound signature. The WH1000MX are more dynamic and life-like in their audio presentation. They reveal more details in the sound while Bose tries to hide them for a smoother presentation. While WH1000MX2 cannot match up to an audiophile can in the same price range, it offers a lot of extras.
- ANC and Bluetooth-enabled
- Tunable ANC
- Rich and detailed audio
- Natural sound
- Not as detailed as audiophile cans
The Beyerdynamic T90 is one of the most affordable Tesla headphones in the market right now. These are their budget option for the same kind of sound that run in their $1000 headphones. These are open-back headphones meant to be used at home or studio. These take a place straight in the best high-resolution headphones list.
Design and Features
The Beyerdynamic T90 hi-fi headphones look much like their Amiron minus some branding touches. These are open back with a brown grille at the back. The earcups are round and mounted with deep pads. They go for velour microfiber which breathes better than leather or pleather. They can easily cover large ears and sit around. The noise isolation would be low on account for the back grille. The build is a plastic and metal mix. This combination feels quite study in our hands.
Beyerdynamic goes with a fully-attached cable for this model. This is 10-foot long cord which plugs into a 3.5mm jack. A 6.3mm screw-on adapter is also provided. The cord seals its deal as a stay-at-home headphone. This comes with a carry case. The headphone only weighs 340g so it’s easy to wear for longer hours.
The Beyerdynamic T90 hi-fi headphones have to be powered off an amp because of its 250Ohm resistance. But the trouble is worth it. These are highly consistent and accurate headphones especially at the current price. They maintain a neutral tonal balance throughout the frequency spectrum and genres. The bass is agile and defined. The open-back helps them sound more refined in a wide open soundstage. They are highly nuanced in mids and treble. In spite of their price they are a direct competition to the pricier Sennheiser HD700, although that wins hands down.
- Wide open soundstage
- Highly accurate
- Strong build
- At home use only
- Cable is not detachable
The Advanced Alpha is another capable planar magnetic headphone on a moderate budget. From an audiophile point of view, these have the dynamic punch and natural flow that we search for in our best high-resolution headphones. These are warm and fun while being accurate.
Design and Features
The Advanced Alpha planar magnetic headphones are gorgeous in their metal design. Owing to their metal design, these are highly durable. These have a metal headband with a suspension design. The headphone suspend on a broad leather band which distributes its weight evenly. These have large round over-ear ear pieces. These are mounted with leather earpads. These nestle even large ears with ease. The earpads are replaceable and the Alpha come with a spare pair. They arrive with only one detachable cable. This goes to both sides so there’s scope for a balanced cable. This is 51” long braided cable with 2.5mm jacks on the headphone end and 3.5mm jack on the other end. You must supply your own 6.3mm adapter. The only other accessory is a vinyl-sheathed cardboard boxes.
The Advanced Alpha planar magnetic have nice liner bass with good extension into the sub bass. The bass transition to mids is clean so the midrange remains pristine. The bass is punchy but doesn’t have the slam of strong bass-powered headphones. The midrange is again musical and very natural. They convey the female voices with panache. The treble is textured and sparkly. It has a hint of harshness. The wide open soundstage hosts outstanding imaging which is another reason they sound highly resolved.
- Clear and accurate
- Natural midrange
- Detachable cable
- Durable metal build
- Some harshness in treble
While the Sennheiser HD800 is technically a very strong headphone, Grado PS1000e is the competitor that sounds much more musical. The bright signature is for the treble-lovers. These represent the epitome of the Grado sound. We were impressed enough to lend them a place in our best high-resolution headphones list.
Design and Features
The Grado PS1000e hi-fi headphones are open-back. They have moderately large earcups with velour earpads. The headband is flat and distributes the weight evenly. The earcups have inner sleeve of hand-hem mahogany. The outer housing is made of aluminum and chrome-plated. These have a metal grille along the backplate. The earcups fold flat for portability. The cable runs to both the earcups. It comes with two extension cables to connect to studio equipment. As with most Grado cans, the investment has gone into their audio, not accessories.
The Grado sound tends to be bright and musical. The PS1000e stand true to this character. They have that bright and sparkly treble that breathes life into classical and orchestral recordings. The treble-forward sound may sound too bright to those who prefer dark and warm tones. The midrange gets its own share of natural flair. The bass is punchy and tight. They need to be burned in to get the bass to open up.
- Bright open sound
- Very musical
- Large soundstage
- Cable extensions
- Might be too bright for some