We wanted to do a survey of the best headphones in existence. The most expensive pair we found was $2,700.That’s slightly out of our price range.
So we capped the entries at $1k, and for each one we asked, “is it worth it?”
Sound: Reviewers unanimously said the HD 700 gives a 'fabulous listening experience,' as TechDigest put it. Sennheiser 'makes some of the best headphones in the world,' reported TrustedReviews. This pair will 'surely impress' true audiophiles, in part because the sound waves hit the ear from an angle, not straight on, says SlashGear.
Comfort: The pads are topped with 'extremely fine velour.' Air vents on the ear cups increase air flow, 'keeping your ears cool.'
Design: They have a 'space-age' or 'slightly Arthur C. Clarke looks,' don't they? The one drawback is that they're open back, which means they 'leak noise considerably.'
Verdict: Worth it. Your million-dollar ears can shill for these thousand-dollar headphones, as long as you don't care about everyone listening to Carly Rae Jepsen along with you.
Sound: The sound is solid. 'Midrange and treble' are 'detailed and present,' reported CNET, though the resolution 'isn't the be-all and end-all quality.' It's not very good for portable devices, which in Soundvision's opinion did not 'deliver sufficient volume.' 6moons found the sound 'settled, relaxed, and coherent.'
Comfort: It's 'big and relatively heavy,' as the picture to the left would indicate. The plush cups feel good, but Soundvision felt the phones 'heavy on my neck... something I can't recall experiencing with other headphones.'
Design: The outer circle of fine metal mesh is huge and somewhat obtrudes. Would you look at the size of this thing? Well, you might not be able to tell from the picture. Just trust us.
Verdict: Not Worth it. The adequate sound quality and heavy feel sink these cans.
Sound: Wired gushed that these phones gave 'a pristine listening experience from the deepest bass on up.' DigitalTrends likewise found it 'impressive': the bass is 'refined' and the treble 'sounded smooth and nature.' But oddly, some found the poor fit hurt the sound quality (more in a moment).
Comfort: Here's the unique thing: there's not one headband that wraps around the skull. Instead there are two 'head paddles,' which didn't always fit snug and left space between ears and the cups. Most didn't have a problem, but check for yourself.
Design: 'We've never tested a swankier pair of headphones.' Wired compared the materials to the ones in the interior of Jay-Z's Bentley. The cups' exterior is striped ebony, and the interior is lambskin.
Verdict: Worth it. They were originally $1,700. They're damn sexy and they sound perfect--as long as they fit. Try before you buy!
Sound: Wired seemed like it had an axe to grind. It called the previous models 'shamelessly overpriced' and 'substandard.' That said, the other reviewers--CNET, Electronista, the ever-thorough Headphone Info--agreed with Wired that the 'bass is like a blow to the chest.' The low end was variously described as 'flabby,' 'thumping,' 'unreasonably amplified,' and 'Ow.' Electronista insisted the sonic quality opened their ears to sounds they'd never heard before. But others said 'delicate sounds lack the room to breathe.' Note: Headphone Info gave it points for tracking and disotrtion performance.
Comfort: 'They feel quite heavy on the head,' offered CNET. Headphone Info's first word after putting them on was, 'Ow.' No one really exulted in the sensation of wearing them.
Design: They're either 'attention-getting but tasteful' or have a 'sturdy design.' We think they look pretty good. But...
Verdict: Not worth it. The bass is out of control, and they're too weighty.
Sound: 'Your music is not good enough for these headphones,' gushed GadgetReview. Other reviewers were similarly smitten. ProSound called the imaging 'impeccable.' TechPowerup called the bass 'amazing' and the sound quality 'top notch.'
Comfort: The phones 'seal well around most ears and heads.' The cups themselves are made of 'thick plastic and plush velvet foam,' which is extra good.
Design: This may be the slight downside. As you can see, it's rather plain. It doesn't look like a $700 pair of headphones.
Verdict: Worth it, unless your exclusive source of pleasure is flaunting your own wealth.
Sound: 'Something is afoot here.' HeadphoneInfo reviews headphones with impossible attention to detail. After putting the T70 through frequency response, distortion, and tracking tests, it concluded that the phones 'perform very well, but not at their price point.' What Hi-Fi? agreed: 'They lack a little in terms of punch and dynamic drama.'
Comfort: They're either 'oh-so comfortable on-ears' or 'exceptionally comfy,' depending on who you ask. The padded leather headband 'cradles the skull' and fits heads large and small.
Design: Like the Ultrasone phones, these are plain, 'less polished than the competition.' The materials 'aren't especially luxurious.' The best they can say for it is 'understated' or 'not offensive to the eyes.'
Verdict: Not worth it: 'interesting technology, but it's not quite there yet.'
Sound: CNET was 'impressed' by its 'strikingly open sound': 'near state of the art.' Headroom found the sound 'astonishingly superb.' ConsumerSearch's roundup of reviewers said the phones 'offer some of the most detailed sound among $1,000 headphones.' One drawback was that they take a while to break in. 'Assume a minimum 300 hours of play-time before the full pleasure of these cans is realised,' noted Headroom. Another thing is that the bass isn't that full, so if you listen mainly to mellow music, look elsewhere.
Comfort: Their 'creamy soft ear pads are so darn comfy it is easy to forget you're wearing headphones,' says CNET. Headroom agreed that the 'soft velour' ear cups are 'very comfortable.' The headstrap seems to work too.
Design: The blue and silver discs are 'sleek' and 'understated,' but in a better sense than Ultrasone and Beyerdynamic were 'understated.' Plus you can tell people that it's hand assembled in Austria.
Verdict: Worth it. Compare this sound, comfort level, and price tag to the rest of the bunch.
Sound: Grado is right up there with Sennheiser. These phones' 'tonal neutrality is excellent' and their 'detail is superb,' says TechRader; the bass 'is a particular glory of the model.' Stuff.tv wrote: 'For sheer sonic pleasure these are the leaders of the class.'
Comfort: They are 'almost worryingly light' on your head, say most reviewers, but they're huge. 'They dominate your head like a mind control device from a 50s sci-fi movie,' said Trusted Reviews.
Design: The wooden cups are nice, but again, these things are ginormous. Also, 'baby got (no) back' Stuff.tv points out, so 'a person sitting next to you can hear just about every note of the music you're listening to.'
Verdict: Worth it, say almost all the reviewers. But that's only if you have $1k to drop on headphones.
Sound: These were the first fully digital noise-cancelling headphones in the market. TechCrunch said the noise cancellation works 'wonderfully,' and CNET praised it as 'superior.' As for sound quality, TechCrunch said it's 'akin to sliding a stick of warm, melty butter into each ear,' which was meant positively. Digital Trends applauded, but helpfully pointed out that 'the woodiness of Yo-Yo Ma's unaccompanied cello on his recording of the bach Cello Suites is lost somewhat.' Note: You can't use the phones without noise cancellation turned on.
Comfort: It's a pretty 'tight fit,' which may discomfort some. Some, though, felt them 'virtually disappear' after a while 'thanks to their relatively light weight.' The headband is 'well-padded.'
Design: Very plain--the Sony way.
Verdict: Not Worth it, but only slightly not. If you're already in this price range, you can do better.
Sound: Juno Plus claims this model is 'specifically aimed at professional recording and mastering engineers or discerning audiophiles.' CNET says the 'wide-open stereo imaging' prevents the sound from feeling like it's 'locked inside your head.' The bass may be too weak for some, though the 'superior midrange and treble clarity' makes acoustic music particularly enjoyable. The headphones allow ambient sound in, which gives a 'natural and spacious listening experience.'
Comfort: 'High' over long listening sessions, because the velour cushsions 'put hardly any pressure on your ears. 'Despite the plushiest of earcup-coverings,' they're 'not too warm' and 'comfortable' on the head, opined What HiFi.
Design: That metal mesh cup exterior is sexy, don't you think? Some thought they don't look their price, but the plush-metal juxtaposition is cool.
Verdict: Worth it. The airy sound environment it creates plus its comfort barely justify the price.