When it comes to recorded music and the audio devices that help us experience it, we understand hearing is believing. Stop dreaming. Come celebrate the way you listen, and feel your music the way it was intended by the artists who recorded it.
High-end headphones are personal audio devices made especially for those who appreciate the special attention to detail it takes artists to record a song. As works of art, music challenges all of us to dig deeper. So, an even deeper appreciation for the passion poured into each composition our favorite artists creates is a right of passage only audiophile-grade headphones can offer. Here’s to the joy that their creations bring to our lives. Here’s to the chills we get from their works, making the hairs on the backs of our necks stand tall. Here’s to the old friend who reaches back for us with open palms. When we fall in the troughs, our music pushes us back towards the peaks we climb. Music is kindness. So, be kind to yourself. Treat your ears well. After all, our ears deserve the best the world has to offer.
These are the top 10 headphone styles every audiophile needs in their music listening arsenal. We’d argue that you can never have too many, but that’s because not everyone listens to music exactly the same way. Just like the musical structure of a song transitions from verse to chorus, our listening-styles can change with the ebb and flows of our daily lives. Come celebrate the unique ways you listen to music. We think these are a great place for people who love music to begin their journey. Welcome aboard.
Circumaural headphones refer to headphones that fit over-the-ear, surrounding the entire ear inside the headphone’s ear cup. Many refer to these as the classic “Audiophile” headphone style. For the audiophile wanting the most expansive sense of presentation available in a headphone style, full-size headphones that fit over-the-ear are the best way to fully immerse your ears with the music of your favorite artists. In this category, headphone shoppers looking for the fullest presentation of sound have the option of either closed-back or open-back headphone styles.
Since producing headphones with a superior soundstage is important, so should the ability to sustain the listening session comfortably without causing fatigue in the ears. Full-Size headphones are often the most comfortable headphone design available, allowing audiophiles to listen for hours with little fatigue or discomfort. Thanks to the materials and build qualities of the larger sized design, full-size headphones are the most comfortable headphones and they offer the most immersive soundstage to drench your ears in music.
The brand we recommend the most for users with larger heads is HifiMan. When it comes to Full-Size headphones, HifiMan is known for its highly flexible designs and excellent levels of comfort.
The most fun-sounding “on-the-go” headphone style. Supra-aural refers to headphones that fit on-the-ear, resting the ear cushions the earcups directly on the user’s ears.
Similar to other small headphone styles available on the market, on-ear headphones position the drivers closer to the ears compared to full-size headphones. Being a smaller form-factor, on-ear headphones travel lighter, but they cannot present a soundstage that competes with the better presentation afforded by the larger, heavier, and sometimes bulkier full-size Fit-type. This is why full-size headphones are the best choice for critical listening at home, private offices or professional studios
For some of the top on-ear headphones on the market, look at Grado, and check out all of Grado's On-Ear headphones. And for shoppers just getting started, check out the Grado sr225e and Grado sr325e On-Ear headphones.
The always-on-the-go headphone style for serious audiophiles who are constantly on the move.
IEM: Acronym referring to “In-Ear Monitor.” This headphone style is the most portable of all the headphone styles because of its small size, allowing it to fit inside the ear canal. There are two types of In-Ear headphone styles:
The most “intimate” headphone style for detail-oriented music fans. This is the headphone style for music fans who want to feel the most intimately connected with their music. Since the backs of closed headphones are covered (hence the name “Closed-Back”), this design generally fits into any ergonomic scenario, especially when on-the-go. Similar to Earphones and IEMs, closed-back headphones typically offer audiophiles a sense of presentation that’s a little more “intimate,” “narrow,” and more “in-the-head.” This can be a great feature for bass-heads or for any application where an up-close analysis of more “forward” sounding details are desired. Ready to upgrade to better closed-back headphones? We recommend the Focal Elegia and the Focal Stellia headphones, if you’re just getting started. See all the best sounding closed-back headphones here.
The “arena show” headset of the headphone-world. Hands down, the de facto “audiophile” headphone style for music fans wanting to get lost, immersed and swallowed whole by the music. This headphone style is worn by serious audiophiles.
In open-back designs, the ventilation airways allow the passage of air to move freely around the drivers, whereas the drivers are not ventilated in closed-back designs since the backsides of the ear-cups are covered. Open Back headphones are best for audiophiles who listen critically at home, in private, or in professional settings where the tonality of a mix is crucial for the way music industry professionals need to listen.
Open-back headphones present the most musical soundstage. However, since the ear cups are “open” as opposed to being closed, the sound waves produced by the drivers are exposed to other people near you as well. So, open-back headphones generally fit into more private or secluded ergonomic scenarios, such as in the home or a private office. If you’re shopping for your first open-back headphone style, don’t sleep on the new Audeze LCD-1 Headphone for Mixing and Mastering or the Sennheiser HD 660S open-back Headphones.
The headphone style for audiophiles who prioritize their music requirements no matter what ergonomic scenario or destination they travel to next. Lighter and easier to transport. They’re the best choice for mobile on-the-go music enjoyment.
Head over to the Portable category and shop for all the best sounding portable headphones on the market.
The headphone style for audiophiles who are conscious of their options for complete tonal flexibility over the most intimate (and often overlooked) connection between them and their music: the headphone cable.
Since nearly all high-end wired headphones are fitted with detachable cables, wired headphones offer the convenience to enhance a headphone’s sound signature by switching to an upgraded headphone cable instead of the cheaply made stock cable that comes included with every headphone.
Headphones with wired connections give users the advantage to tailor the sound of their music even further by switching to higher quality upgrade cables. Doing this changes the tonality and sound signature of wired headphones to suit the music and the user’s tastes on the fly.
This level of flexibility simply isn’t possible with wireless headphone styles. Not everyone listens to music in the same way, and our tastes in music are uniquely our own. This flexibility in sound signatures is a prized feature found only in wired headphones. For this reason, headphone users who are serious about the sound of their music and hearing it on their terms covet wired headphone styles.
Ahhh, the freedom from wires. The most ergonomic-friendly headphone style for music fans wanting to cut the cord, and roam free from tethered connections.
This Fit-type is all about the extra convenience. It’s the best for on-the-go music lovers. Limited options are available for on-the-go users who are more serious about the quality of their audio. Head over to the Wireless headphone category now for the best sounding audiophile-grade wireless headphones.
The best headphone style for hard-working overachievers to enhance concentration or relax in therapeutic zen silence.
Shoppers of noise-canceling headphones typically fall in a different category compared to shoppers who care about great sound. These shoppers are generally more interested in solutions that help them relax during a flight, focus in a noisy environment or to aid sleep while on a road trip. Shoppers of noise-canceling headphones are generally less interested in the quality of their audio and more interested in finding a solution that helps them to navigate the ergonomics of their lifestyles in therapeutic silence.
Noise-canceling technology is a “bells and whistles” feature most music lovers don’t need, but for the right ergonomic scenarios (e.g. those who travel frequently), noise-canceling headphones do come in handy. For these shoppers, Noise-canceling technology is an essential tool for anyone with an always-on-the-go lifestyle.
Manufacturers have stepped up their games when it comes to producing noise-canceling headphones for audiophiles that can provide a more immersive sense of presentation. For example, Sony recently applied its expertise in supreme sound to the production of its first Noise-Canceling headphones for audiophiles: the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones and the Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise-Canceling Earphones.
This is the best headphone style for the most immersive audio experience; bringing the user closer to their favorite video games like they never heard before. For gamers who are serious about the immersive experience from their favorite video games, Gaming headphone styles are essential in gaining the advantage over other players in the competitive arena of online gaming.
For some of the best headphones in gaming, check out the Audeze product-line. For headphones made especially for gaming, look no further than the Audeze Mobius Gaming headphones, and the Audeze LCD-GX headphones for gamers.