Throughout our previous guides and reports, we’ve regularly spoken about the list of the best headphone brands created by Time magazine last year.
But, we’re going to come out for the first time to say that there were some elements of this article that we disagreed with. The problem is that creating such a complicated list is an almost impossible task.
Simply because we’re all different! Some people are into audiophile-quality sound and love to spend big on a pair of world class cans while others ridicule this will to spend such vast sums of money on something that they see as just another music accessory.
Well, to be honest, we can see both sides of the argument and this has forced us to make an updated list of the top brands available in 2015!
These rankings are based on overall quality with great focus being placed on the sound delivered! Unfortunately, this means that the price tags of some of the higher ranked brands will blow your mind so make sure you take a deep breath before checking out this list!
When designing this list, we felt quite bad about ignoring the price and in consequence, ignoring those who are still looking for great quality but are under a limited budget. For this reason, we also decided to recommend two high quality cans belonging to each make – one which would be the top pick and the other which would comprise great quality but be reasonably priced (to a certain extent)!
Finding the Best Headphone Brands
The market has become increasingly saturated with new companies joining the fray. While this is beneficial because we get value for money, this also means that we’re facing a daunting task to successfully determine the overall quality of the make. This is exactly where this guide will provide assistance.
As previously mentioned, creating such a resource would be incredibly complicated and this is exactly what we experienced. However, we got there in the end. After hours and hours of testing, studying expert and customer reviews and analyzing existing related reports, we finally managed to get everything done.
Each make has been scored out of 100 and you’ll notice that there was some serious competition between some of these headphone brands. You can go on to read this list below…
20) Harman Kardon
Associated with the production of high-quality audio equipment, HK has managed to establish itself as a popular high-end headphones manufacturer. Its products are well known to carry an element of class and the incredibly premium designs certainly support this image.
However, as we all know, appearances can be deceiving! So do HK cans perform as well as they look?
Well…yes! Yes they do!
Being a well-known speaker manufacturer, HK have managed to pull off a smooth transition into the headphones market. Their products certainly feel very durable while the sound quality is majorly impressive aspect. The only issue you might experience is the short-lasting comfort but this may only affect a small group of people.
Either way, the HK sets that particularly impressed us were the NC Premium which holds superb audio quality and the CL Precision which is bound to provide a bang for your buck!
It’s fair to say that Koss has been around for a very long time. In fact, their impressive Porta-Pro model which is still available nowadays has been in production for over 25 years. The truth is that we’re looking at a top manufacturer which is now deemed a giant killer. This is due to the superb sound quality associated with products which are considered to be available at a bargain price!
The 2 standout performers made by Koss which can be bought today are the Porta-Pros and the PRODJ200s. The bright Porta-Pros come in an attractive retro design and provide a terrific value for money while the PRODJ200s are also associated with an equally low cost.
In addition to these positive points, Koss also offer a lifetime warranty with their products and this for us is the icing on the cake!
When it comes to the noise cancelling feature, Bose is King! So many brands (including Harman Kardon amongst many others) have tried to compete but the result has been the same – a landslide victory for Bose.
Comfort is another factor where Bose sets really excel. However, the overall sound quality is where you’ll be slightly let down (especially if you’ve been used to high-end audiophile sets). This is clear to see when you compare this manufacturer to others within the same price range! For this reason, we’d definitely consider Bose headphones to be slightly overpriced.
Despite this, there are some models which have earned some solid reviews from experts and customers alike – the Bose QC25 and the SoundTrues. However, even one glance at the cost of buying these models repeats the same opinion that these are definitely overpriced!
Etymotic translates to “true to the ear” and they’ve used their extensive research to really focus on this phrase. The development of some excellent products in the in-ear style easily makes this one of the best headphone brands available in 2015!
In creation of these sets, this relatively small company has focused on a number of essential features. These include a design which is placed deep within the ear canals to establish a secure fit and in consequence, an effective seal and noise isolation. Etymotic also focuses greatly on sound quality and their products are highly popular amongst many musicians and serious music listeners!
The ER4s and hf5s are 2 earphones which have greatly contributed to the rise of Etymotic and these are certain to carry an impressive price to performance ratio.
Almost everyone has heard of Philips but this is probably better known for other household electronics rather than headphones. Well, the truth is that this is one of the best headphone brands available nowadays.
Some evidence of this is the glowing reputation of the Fidelio line. The X1/28 model is particularly impressive and provides an unbelievable value for money for intermediate level audiophiles with a strict budget. If for some reason, the X1/28 isn’t suitable for your needs then the L1/28 model can be bought for a much lower price although this isn’t an audiophile-grade set!
Additionally, you’ll find that Philips offer products for pretty much every budget. This means that if you’re a casual listener who wants to spend the minimum for decent overall quality then Philips is the brand for you!
Being a relatively new company, V-moda was started in 2004 by Val Kolton, a producer and a DJ. However, this hasn’t stopped the audio equipment manufacturer from creating a lasting impression on other DJs, professional musicians and audiophiles.
The Crossfade M-100 in particular has won the hearts of many due to the combination of some exceptional features. These include classy aesthetics, incredibly sturdy design, superb comfort and best of all the detailed sound which combines well with a powerful yet well-controlled bass! As a result, we’re looking at a set which is a perfect fit for audiophiles on a budget. (Just remember that the M-100 is known to require patience when it comes to the burn-in period!)
If you’re unable to afford this, then there are some other models which will provide a great value for money with the Crossfade LP standing out in these circumstances!
Klipsch have been quick to establish a large following since their recent transition into the market. This progress has been accelerated partly due to the patented ear gels which play a key role in their earphone designs. The function of these ear gels is to minimize ear discomfort while forming a secure fit inside the ear canal.
While the fit has been important, the sound delivered by Klipsch earphones is what has really given them the edge over other close competitors. A model which indicates this perfectly is the audiophile-grade X11i which is available for just over 200 bucks.
Over-ear sets such as the STATUS have also received some positive reviews and this model certainly provides a decent value for money.
Despite some standout characteristics of the Klipsch brand, the below-par build quality associated with some products may have led to the deduction of a few points!
A make which has created products across a huge range of budgets, AKG is a very popular choice amongst serious and casual music listeners around the globe. Some of their sets provide an incredible value for money and the K702 model would certainly be considered as one of these!
However, if you’re an audiophile and want to go for the highest-end pair on the market then you need to go for the K1000. This set has a huge soundstage which can equal or even better most similarly priced sets on the market. However, it’s worth mentioning that the K1000s require a huge amount of power not to mention the fact that they’re quite expensive. In our opinion, this set doesn’t provide that much value for the amount of money it’ll cost you!
12) Audio Technica
Let’s face it – we’ve all heard of Audio Technica! This Japanese company is responsible for the manufacture of a huge range of high-quality audio equipment which also includes microphones. In fact, they’ve actually been responsible for the supply of microphones for the Grammy awards for over 10 years! Isn’t that something?
In terms of headphones though, it’s safe to say that for the average person who likes to listen to music casually, Audio Technica is the make that provides the greatest value for money. With a huge selection of headphones to choose from, we can literally find something for pretty much any budget. The best thing about this is that most of these sets will be bursting with quality!
Further evidence of this is the ATH-M50 model which has and continues to receive huge praise due to its overall qualities and price-to-performance value.
Audio Technica really have made something for everyone and this can be observed with the ATH-AD900X model. Even though, this product is associated with a modest price tag, it’s actually a perfect fit for an audiophile!
Westone call themselves the in-ear experts and judging by some of their top models, this seems to be a fairly accurate statement. Perfectly suitable for professionals and audiophiles, there are some fantastic products available!
However, one major problem with this make is the price that some of its products warrant. For example, even describing the sound quality delivered by the ES5 model as being lush would be an understatement. Despite this, the price tag of over 1000 bucks will probably shock you!
If you’ve turned away from the ES5 but are still looking for a high-end in-ear model made by Westone, then the W30 will do well to satisfy your needs!
10) Bowers & Wilkins
Originally a high-end speaker brand, B&W has been working with Jaguar to develop audio systems for some of their cars – this just screams out LUXURY! What’s good for us is that very recently they also started the production of luxury headphones and they certainly haven’t looked back since.
A perfect example of this is the P7 model which has earned rave reviews from customers and experts. Although, there might be a feeling that you’re slightly overpaying for this model, the overall quality it holds is exceptional. The luxurious build and design, incredibly balanced sound quality and superb comfort are just some positive factors associated with the P7s.
But, if you’re still not convinced about the price tag then you’ll be pleased to hear about the P5 model which would be considered as a worthy lower-priced albeit still expensive set!
Ultrasone are sound specialists so it only makes sense for them to break into the top 10 of the best headphone brands around nowadays. Uniquely combining this sound factor with high-end design, durability and technology in general, Ultrasones stock has risen considerably! The only complaint is that most of their products are incredibly high-priced!
The Signature Pros deserve special praise due to the aesthetic design, wonderful soundstage, neutrality and superb build quality. Having said that the thin headband may deteriorate the overall comfort which isn’t ideal for such a premium set.
If you’re after a more affordable product then the HFI-780s perform reasonably well too!
A powerhouse in the electronics industry, Sony changed the future of music by creating the Walkman. They’ve also created some incredible headphones over 30 years ago which are still in production today. This clearly shows the standards set and the quality instilled by Sony in this market.
A great example of this is the MDR-R10 which is considered by some people as THE BEST pair of headphones ever made. If not this, the MDR-R10 is still a legend in this industry and legends warrant a top asking price.
However, the best thing about Sony is that they produce quality products which are suitable for every budget and this is proved by the MDR-XB500s.
Denon, an electronics company originating from Japan, started their headphones line in the 1990s. Since then, they’ve produced some real quality products best suited for audiophile and professional use.
One such pair is the D7000 which happens to be discontinued now. However, it’s still popular amongst fans for its stunning wooden design, impressive comfort and mind-blowing sound although it might not match some of the highest-end sets made by other makes!
If you’re looking for a more modern look, terrific sound quality and a decent price-to-performance ratio associated with a product made by a top-of-the-range brand, then look no further than the AH-D600s!
6) Grado Labs
There’s no question that Grado Labs is one of the best headphone brands out there these days and they’ve certainly been here for quite a while. Truth be told, most of their professional lines are held in very high regard by pro musician and audiophile communities though the sound signature may not appeal to everyone.
A particular set which has satisfied the ears of many is the PS1000 which creates a perfect blend of superb highest-end sound quality, unrivalled comfort and aesthetics. The only problem is the $2700 price tag!
As you can see Grado seems to be associated with a premium price tag. However, some products such as the SR80is have received highly positive reviews while being available for a very reasonable price.
There are many factors which allow Shure to be one of the best headphone brands in 2015. One of these includes the fact that they have a range of products available which can be suitable for every level.
Looking towards the higher end of the scale, we have the flagship SRH1840s which are bound to provide a decent value for money despite coming with a high price tag. Some of the more impressive features of this product is the neutrality of sound and the comfort which will allow you to wear these for hours and hours without experiencing ear fatigue!
If you’ve got less than 100 bucks to spend and love Shure then you can’t go wrong with the SRH440 model (although comfort may be an issue during prolonged use)!
In Beyerdynamic, we’re looking at a make which is rated very highly by serious and casual music listeners. If you’re in for this brand, you can expect exceptional quality in terms of pretty much every aspect. Whether you’re an audiophile or just like your music to sound good while out and about, Beyerdynamic will have something perfectly suitable for you.
The Beyerdynamic flagship T1 is one perfect example of the highest-end pair of headphones around in 2015. Although it costs quite a bit, this still represents a real value for your hard earned cash! One particular advantage of this model is the ease through which you’ll be able to pair it up with an amp.
If you’ve got a considerably lower budget then you won’t have to worry about finding a top quality set. In this case, the Beyerdynamic DT-880s have one of the best price-to-performance ratio in the business!
HiFiman takes its place amongst the top 3 best headphone brands and it’s no surprise that they’ve come this far! Creating products with top-of-the-range sound and maximizing the quality of every other essential headphone feature, this brand has performed admirably!
A perfect example of this is the HE-6 model which is one of the top models around. Despite this, the HE-6s warrant a significantly lower price tag when compared to pretty much every other high-end product!
We can’t move on without mentioning the HE-500s! Despite being quite a bit more expensive than the Beyerdynamic DT-880s, this model provides stern competition in terms of having the best price-to-performance value. To be honest, we feel that the HE-500s beat the DT-880s by quite a margin when it comes to this criterion. This is merely a small indication of the quality this model comprises!
Sennheiser takes the 2nd position just ahead of HiFiman and most of us are already aware of what this headphone brand offers – something for everyone! If you’re not interested in spending some serious money but still expect decent sound quality then Sennheiser will be perfect for you. If your budget is slightly higher, then this brand would be perfect again. If you’re researching to buy an audiophile set then again you’ll most certainly come across the Sennheiser brand.
An example of a highest-end pair is the HD 800 while most of us serious listeners have surely heard of the Orpheus HE 90. While these 2 sets might be outside your limits, you can’t go wrong with Sennheiser if you have value for money in mind. The HD 598 is one of many superb sets which excel in every way yet warrant a very modest price tag!
With increased attention shifting towards realistically unimpressive celebrity-endorsed brands, lots of people have been ignoring some of the finest brands around. Audeze, which is one of the best headphone brands (or the best in our opinion), creates products that truly look spectacular – heck they don’t even look like traditional headphones! Although, we’ll have to spend a top dollar to buy some of these sets, you won’t regret it if you’re after the highest-end sound quality!
A model which perfectly represents the quality of Audeze is the flagship LCD-3 model! Not only do we come across an astonishingly eye-catching hand-crafted design, we’re also subjected to one of the best sounding headphones available in 2015!
While Audeze have solely focused on the highest-end market, they’ve actually announced the EL-8 model which will be their lowest priced set. It seems like a certainty that this will be just as impressive as some of it’s more illustrious brothers. However, considering the fact that price tag still seems quite high, we won’t offer any praise until after the release!
While the above list of the best headphone brands might represent a more accurate estimation, we’ve still got a few minor details to focus on.
First we come to the price of each product. All of these products are valid at the time of publishing and as we all know these may vary greatly from time to time. This is even more common for headphones that have been discontinued with the Sony MDR-R10s being the perfect example of this.
Our second point focuses on the exclusion of some major brands – namely Stax! This brand has been known to create some incredible headphones and it’s not hard to see that the SR-009 model is one of the best, if not THE BEST pair of headphones ever created (alongside Sennheiser Orpheus HE 90)! However, we felt that the difficulty of obtaining some Stax products along with the incredibly high prices meant that we didn’t consider the Stax brand. Despite this, if it had to be in the list then it’d almost certainly take the first position!
In relation to other brands, Sol Republic came quite close to breaking the top 20 but ultimately failed while celebrity-endorsed brands such as Beats by Dre and Monster failed to make the cut for obvious reasons!
Our third and final point touches on the subject of amplification. As you can see, there are some high-end products named in the above list. However, achieving their true sound potential won’t be possible by connecting them to your iPod or smartphone. For this reason, a good quality amp is a must!
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