Loving the highs and lows of your favorite tracks, being able to distinguish between the drums and thumps, and having audio preferences costs a lot. Literally and practically.
Ordinary headphones won’t let you unravel and understand the true weave of notes. They would only provide you with some temporary entertainment. And so, for an audiophile, low-quality headphones are not an option.
But the alternative is way too pricey. Headphones that deliver music to your ears just as it got composed may cost you half of your monthly expenditure. In such a case, say, you don’t have enough savings, possessing audiophile headphones can only be a dream.
Well, we’re here to transform your dreams into realities. We are here to ensure that you get access to things that you can only otherwise imagine by helping you learn about the hidden treasures of the market, i.e., economical yet top-notch quality options.
So, here in this list, you will get access to the top 10 best budget audiophile headphones. And to assist your shopping experience, we have also compiled a handy comprehensive buying guide under the list of affordable audiophile headphones.
- 10 Best Budget Audiophile Headphones Review & Guide
- 1. Sennheiser HD 600
- 2. Plantronics Pro 2 Wireless Noise Cancelling Backbeat – Headphones
- 3. Bowers & Wilkins PX Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones
- 4. Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro
- 5. Sennheiser HD 569
- 6. Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
- 7. COWIN E7 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
- 8. Superlux HD 681 Dynamic Semi-Open Headphones
- 9. GRADO SR80e Prestige Series Wired Open-Back Stereo Headphones
- 10. TCL Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
- How to Choose the Best Budget Audiophile Headphones?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Words!
10 Best Budget Audiophile Headphones Review & Guide
Sennheiser HD 600 is perhaps the most expensive in this list. But despite being the most expensive, it is still affordable enough to land here in this all-embracing list of best budget audiophile headphones.
On the outside, the Sennheiser HD 600 has a professional, minimalistic, and clean look. It features wide and elongated earcups, which come padded on the inside with soft earpads. The headband is also quite comfortable and adjustable.
Its open-back design leads to slight sound leakage when listening to songs on maximum volumes. But it’s the same metal mesh grilles that bring about louder volumes and transparent sound. So, it’s kind of essential to its engineering.
On the inside, Sennheiser features Neodymium ferrous magnet systems that ensure increased sensitivity. The impedance offered by these is around 300 ohms. Now, that’s a jaw-dropping value! Along with adding to its powerful performance, such an impedance also ensures the durability of the headset.
In terms of sound, HD600 offers the best treble and mids. There’s a little compromise on bass, but most other aspects of sounds are clean and clear. Additionally, it has a wide and spacious soundstage to provide an extremely detailed and immersive listening experience. Thus, they’re also the best budget audiophile headphones for gaming.
With brown aesthetics, the Plantronics Pro 2 has an intriguing exterior. It has a pale brown headband, blackish frame, silver mesh ear cups, and textured wooden panels. Altogether, the styling of the Plantronics Pro 2 appears attractive.
Plus, it has a durable yet lightweight construction, which makes it easier to wear for long periods. It comes along with a fabric, zippered carrying pouch that further contributes to portability. You can wear or carry the Plantronics Pro 2 on your travels conveniently!
The Plantronics Pro 2 has an innovative convertible design. So, you can benefit from both wireless and wired formats. For the wired version, there comes a 3.5mm cable with the product that you’ll have to attach separately.
Moreover, the audio delivery of the Plantronics Pro 2 is outstanding. These audiophile headphones utilize an active noise cancellation feature to block ambient sounds. And, the integrated components function to reproduce a detailed, clear, and balanced audio. However, the bass is a little louder and boomy, which might not suit some audiophiles.
The Plantronics Pro 2 Headphones, an upgraded version of the previous model Plantronics, are one of the best cheap audiophile headphones in the market. These headphones offer an integrated, feature-rich design at reasonable costs. A true deal-breaker!
Bowers & Wilkins is a reputable British audio equipment brand that is popular for innovative and aesthetically-pleasing headphones. Fortunately, the Bowers & Wilkins PX Headphones continue their legacy with an attractive, modishly minimalistic outlook.
With the dimensions of 15.3 x 11.8 x 14.2-inches, the Bowers & Wilkins PX Headphones have a slim and classy structure. It has a matte finishing and cloth-like accents, which adds to the style.
Unlike other Bowers & Wilkins headphones, the PX has less padded ear cushions. Although the less padding does not hinder comfort, the heavyweight build of 336g does. You can wear these headphones for shorter listening sessions only.
Moreover, PX Headphones have a convertible design. There are primarily wireless that offer strong connectivity and undisrupted listening. However, for ease, you can use the provided 3.5mm cable to make these wired. In wireless format, the PX entry-level headphones offer 24-hours long battery life.
As for the performance, you can cherish high-quality audio from the Bowers & Wilkins PX Headphones. The highs and lows of the audio are accurate and balanced. You will find the reproduced audio crisp and detailed. However, despite the claims, the headphones have poor active noise cancellation.
The Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro has a design dedicated to audiophiles, music creators, and serious music lovers. With the dimensions of 10 x 5 x 8-inches, the Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro has a bulky yet sturdy build. You can use them quite roughly and still find no depreciation in performance.
With robust workmanship, the Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro has great resistance against damage and wear. However, portability might be a concern for some. Nevertheless, despite the bulky structure, the headphones offer great comfort. They have a steel spring headband that adjusts perfectly. And, the soft velour ear pads do not put pressure on your ears. Plus, they are replaceable!
These closed-back over-ear headphones have an attractive and feature-rich build that allows audiophiles to access high-quality audio. The closed-back design prevents sound leakage and interruption from ambient noises. Plus, the reproduced audio has immense precision and clarity. You can differentiate between instruments easily!
Earlier, we had a look at the open-back marvel from Sennheiser. But after reviewing this, it turned out Sennheiser manufactures top-notch closed-back models too.
Sennheiser HD569 features a sleek black exterior with a robust feel. Its earpads are soft, wide, and comfortable. And they are also replaceable, so you change these when one set wears off. The headband, however, does not seem as sturdy as the plastic exterior. Its soft foam gives a comfortable feel, but since they attached it to the plastic part with glue, it’s likely to come out upon intensive usage. It would mean you would have to do with a plastic-only headband.
But considering its technical specs and your limited budget, it is a doable aspect. These around-ear headphones cover a frequency range of 10-28000 Hz, and we can’t help but admire its smooth frequency response. The 23-ohm impedance makes it a low-impedance model and is suited for use with mobile phones, MP3 players, and small playback devices.
What’s more, it comes with a 6.3mm plug and 3.5mm plug. Thus, making the use even more convenient. Being closed-back, they offer amazing noise cancellation. Its 2-year warranty also makes it a safe purchase.
Audio Technica has a reputation for building the most sturdy audio gear of all. And of course, at unbelievably pocket-friendly prices. ATH-M20x covers a frequency range of 15 – 20,000 Hz, which helps cover both the highs and lows of the audios. It comes with a sensitivity of 96 dB and 40 mm drivers that deliver powerful and exceptionally loud sound. The bass is not the best of M20x’s capabilities, but the mids and lows are great.
What makes this one of the best budget audiophile headphones is the fact that you can do professional DJ mixing and tracking with this headset – that costs something under 50. Unbelievable! Right?
Well, that’s the quality of Audio Technica: always takes us by surprise! With that said, these over-ear headphones offer an impedance of about 47 ohms! That’s way too much for a headset at $45, but that’s what makes it all the more worthy of purchase.
It’s just that some users have reported having witnessed durability issues. But only after a year and upon intensive usage. Given the price, we don’t think it’s a huge compromise! Most others at this price don’t even make it through a month.
The COWIN E7 Headphones have a high-quality metallic and plastic build, which offers sturdiness. Although the incorporation of plastic makes headphones appear low-quality, the usage of high-grade materials and unique design makes COWIN E7 attractive.
Plus, these cheap audiophile headphones have a convertible design for improved feasibility. You can use the 3.5mm cable provided to make it wired. Or, turn on the Bluetooth feature for uninterrupted strong wireless connectivity.
In wireless form, the Quick Charge function of COWIN E7 allows you to charge the headphones in merely 10-minutes and enjoy an hour of playtime. On a full charge, the COWIN E7 provides 30-hours long playtime!
As for the performance, the COWIN E7 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones offer outstanding audio that has balanced notes, rich bass, and clarity. The ANC technology eliminates background noises to a minimum.
Furthermore, the headphones are compatible with both the operating systems Android and iOS.
As the name suggests, the Superlux HD 681 Headphones have an innovative semi-open design, which means they are somewhere between open-back and closed-back. The integration of the unique design means you now have slight freedom to listen in public spaces while wearing a semi-open headphone.
At a glance, the Superlux HD 681 will not satisfy your look preferences. Honestly, these are ugly in comparison to other budget-friendly audiophile headphones. The red knobs and strange buttons emerging from unnatural points make the headphones unattractive.
However, the Superlux HD 681 Headphones have high-quality vinyl and plastic construction. Thus, making them quite durable and long-lasting. These also come with a vinyl case to carry the headphones from one place to another.
As for audio quality, the sound reproduction of Superlux HD 681 Headphones is phenomenal. It delivers detailed and rich audio with even bass. At $30, the Superlux HD 681 is one of the cheapest audiophile headphones available in the market. If you disregard the looks and absence of extra specifications, the Superlux HD 681 Headphones is an ideal budget-friendly option!
Grado – a family-owned company in Brooklyn, has been manufacturing top-notch quality goods for the last 35 years. Over the years, the company gained the trust of several die-hard audiophiles and continues to feed their interests with economical headphones incorporating cutting edge technology.
SR80e of the Prestige Series truly depicts their efforts. These wired open-back headphones will cost you less than a hundred dollars. But it will provide comfort and audio that beats most high-end audiophile headphones. Except, it’s a bit more specific with its performance.
How? Well, it does so by converting electric signals into audio signals without even the slightest of alterations. It delivers pure and raw audio to you, and unlike most high-end variants, it does not add the boomy bass or warm touches. The frequency response is flat, which is the good part. And the soundstage is deep and spacious. Thus, providing an immersive listening experience. What’s more, it comes with a one-year-long warranty. So, along with being affordable, this is also a safe purchase.
It leaks sound noticeably. So, it isn’t the best option if you want audiophile headphones for outdoor use.
TCL Active Noise Cancelling Headphones work best for music enthusiasts who are almost always on the go. Ambient noise can disrupt the listening experience substantially. And to cancel this out, TCL has equipped this mid-range audiophile headset with phenomenal noise cancellation capabilities. It cuts out the outer world and also keeps it from peaking into your personal music space with its anti-sound leakage design.
With the noise cancellation feature switched on, this lightweight headset provides playtime of about 20 hours. Without it, TCL audiophile headphones will last around 25 hours. In either case, the length of battery time is impressive and suited for travel use.
Another aspect that makes it perfect for the commute is its wireless design. Just connect them via Bluetooth and enjoy your favorite tracks on the on-ear TCL headphones. Furthermore, it offers pronounced bass with its 32mm drivers, 100 dB sensitivity, and 32 ohms of impedance. The swiveling ear shells, collapsible design, adjustable headband, and soft, comfy ear cups make it easy to wear and use.
But it’s only the looks that some users have disapproved of because the plastic has a cheap feel and look. And this is something even more prominent with the bold and brighter variants of the headphones, such as red and white. Grey and black work fine as they camouflage the branding mark (TCL) on the temple as well as the quality of the plastic.
How to Choose the Best Budget Audiophile Headphones?
It wasn’t until 1910 the world became aware of new audio technology, called the headphones. Sitting on his kitchen table, Nathaniel Baldwin was the first to invent this gadget by hand successfully. Afterward, he sold the headphones to the US Navy.
At the time, it was the only headphone that existed. Fast-Forward into the 21st century, and you will see thousands of varieties of headphones. Each one offers a new set of specifications.
While it might have been easier to purchase headphones in the past, it is a challenge today. The market has an outstanding variety of headphones from planar magnetic to dynamic.
In such a scenario, how will a first-time buyer make the right decision without getting torn between different options? Well, the answer is simple, research. Conducting research and doing the calculations always proves to be helpful in shopping. So, for your ease, we have articulated a comprehensive list of factors to consider while researching for the best budget audiophile headphones. Read more!
When shopping on a budget, the brand is the first thing we’d advise you to choose. Currently, both new brands like COWIN and older brands like Sennheiser are offering affordable variants of their flagship audio technology. Thus, there’s an array of reputable names to look up to, so opting for one can get a bit challenging.
For the very reason, we have only included the best budget audiophile headphones of brands that believe in catering to the needs of budget buyers frequently and generously. Our list of trusted brands in this regard includes:
- Super Lux
- Bowers & Wilkins
Of course, there are other trustworthy brands like Audeze too. But, the reason they didn’t make it to the top tens of cheapest audiophile headphones is the fact that we don’t see these companies offering the best of their innovation anywhere under 100.
However, if you’re stepping into the world of audio for the very first time, then allow your choice to have more influence of technicalities and comfort than a brand. The below-listed features will help you in this regard.
Technical Features to Consider
Some of the technical features to look for when buying the best headphones includes:
Impedance indirectly determines the power that your headphones will require. Fundamentally, it is a quantity of resistance measured in ohms. The impedance figure tells how difficult it will be for your headphone drivers to hinder the flowing electrical current.
For a budget audiophile headphone, we suggest the range of 20 ohms – 80 ohms. Headphones with an impedance below 25 ohms are known as low impedance ones and can provide high audio levels at low power. But they are susceptible to damage upon overloading. Those ranking above 25 ohms get recognized as high-impedance ones, and they consume more power to deliver high audio levels. They cost more. But on the brighter side, they are a safe investment as they are unlikely to blow out when dealing with heavy loads.
Sensitivity, measured in Decibels, determines the loudness of your headphones. You will see its value accompanied with SPL/mW units.
Remember, high sensitivity means that your headphones will be louder with low power consumption. Lower sensitivity models will require more power to function better.
Headphones drivers typically convert electrical signals into sound signals. They contain a diaphragm, a coil, and a magnet. Depending on the structure and sound output, there are four types of headphone drivers. These include:
- Planar Drivers
- Electrostatic Drivers
- Hybrid Drivers
- Dynamic Drivers
Amongst these, electrostatic drivers seem to perform best as most high-end headphones use these. They reproduce the rawest and the purist sound quality. But they may make the headphones pricey, bulky, and dependent on external amplifiers.
Contrary to this, dynamic drivers are the ones that you’ll find in every other headset. Thanks to their power-efficient operation, versatile functioning, and economical price, you will find them incorporated in cheap audiophile headphones as well as high-end models.
Planar drivers perform more or less the same as dynamic drivers. They can produce sound with little or no distortion, which sets them apart. However, to do this, they depend on amplifiers, which in turn makes headphones with planar drivers heavier. Along the same lines, hybrid drivers are the ones you’ll find in wired headphones with wireless capabilities (such as Bluetooth connectivity).
So, for a budget audiophile headphone, we recommend headphones with dynamic drivers. They help lower the cost of your headset without compromising on the quality or adding to the weight.
Although technical specifications form the chunk of factors when buying the best budget audiophile headphones for gaming, there are some bonus features too. By the term bonus, we mean the specs that will augment your overall user experience and not the audio quality.
While these specs are prominent ones for general headphone buyers, audiophiles consider it as a plus point. They won’t base their decision on it, but getting the best of these may be wiser. Here are the bonus specifications that you must consider:
When you wear a headphone, it should feel comfortable on your head so that you can wear it for long periods. Although it is subjective, there are three prominent factors to evaluate when determining the comfort levels of a headphone.
Lightweight construction is something you must hunt for in ideal headphones. This particular feature can either make wearing headphones for hours easy or challenging. Lightweight headphones allow only hours of listening with convenience. Plus, it enables you to carry the headphones anywhere anytime.
The headband or frame material of the headphones affects your user experience as well. A hard metal frame without underneath padding can make it impossible to use the headphones without. So, before investing in any headphones, hunt for comfort-oriented frame specifications.
Leather, Velour, Hybrid-each pair of headphones hosts different ear cushions. While leather ear cushions offer more isolation and soundstage, the Velour ones provide more comfort. Meanwhile. Hybrid ear cushions offer the audio qualities of leather and comfort of Velour.
Design & Style
As a professional audiophile, the appearance of the headphones can have a significant impact on your work. With a displeasing exterior, you’re less likely to get in the mood of audio analyzing and work. Hence, it is better to give the importance of the look when buying headphones.
Apart from the exterior, there is another essential decision related to design to make. There are two prominent types of headphones designs; wireless and wired. The wireless headphones offer the advantages of portability and feasibility, while the wired headphones offer the benefit of better sound quality.
Another category that exists in headphones design variations is of open-back and closed-back. Open-back design headphones allow sounds to travel into the ambiance. Whereas, the closed-back design traps the sound between the ear cushion and your ear. With open-back, you cannot listen to audio in crowded spaces.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is it necessary to buy an Amp separately?
The amplifier functions to increase the signal level from a playback gadget, which augments the overall audio detail and volume. You may require an amplifier for several reasons. For example, if the inbuilt amplifier of the device is not powerful enough. Or, if the impedance of the headphones is too high. You may not need a separate amplifier if the headphones have a noise cancellation feature.
2. Is lower impedance better for headphones?
The impedance refers to the power required by the headphones. Usually, the headphones with higher impedance offer a better soundstage and loudness. These can handle higher power voltages. However, lower impedance headphones can blow out if paired with high-power amplifiers or devices. So, it is wiser to opt for high impedance headphones.
Above, we have articulated all the very best headphones in an attempt that you find your solution without much hassle. If you’re still doubtful, we recommend you to try the Superlux HD 681 headphones. These excel in all aspects of high-quality headphones.
Well, with research and patience, anyone can purchase the best budget audiophile headphones easily. There is also a comprehensive guide present above to help you make the best purchase possible. Happy Listening!