Looking for the best budget audiophile headphones is not easy. That’s because the industry of audiophile headphones is a niche industry and small details do matter a lot. A simple search online for headphones that are audiophile-grade will yield many results.
However, it can be hard to find something that suits you. Each of these headphones has different specs and features. They have different frequency response, soundstage, and several other characteristics.
So, to help you out, we came up with this article that will serve as your guide to choosing the best audiophile headphones.
Things to Consider When Shopping for the Best Budget Audiophile Headphones
If you consider yourself an audiophile, then you may not need any guide to help you find the perfect audiophile headphone for your needs. However, the many options available for you online can be overwhelming. If you need help making the best decision, this buyer guide will come in handy.
Frequency response refers to the headphone’s ability to respond to different frequencies from the audio signals. Most audiophile headphones are capable of offering excellent frequency response with less distortion.
Each type of headphone offers a different level of frequency response, which is where the “sound signature” is coined. Sometimes, the mid-tones are brightened, sometimes the highs or lows.
The headphone’s impedance is what oversees the amplification that’s needed for the device to function at its full potential. Those with an impedance of fewer than 35 ohms will no longer need any amplification, although the amplifier will, no doubt, enhance your overall audio listening experience.
On the other hand, headphones that have an impedance rating of 300 ohms and higher should be used along with a higher-end amplifier, since using the headphone without any amplifier will only defeat the purpose.
In addition, some headphone models, such as electrostatic headphones, will need a special type of amplifier.
The headphone’s overall level of comfort can affect its usability. Most of the higher-end models tend to be heavier compared to the mid-range ones.
The reason for this is because the higher-end models, especially electrostatic and planar magnetic headphones, have a more complex structure on the ear cups. This could increase the overall weight of the headphones.
The best thing to do in order to compensate this is to look for headphones that come with softer padding, most preferably those that have comfortable ear pads.
Open Back vs Closed Back
In the world of headphones, two operating principles apply – open back and closed back. Of all the audiophile headphones in the market, it is the open back design that’s considered the most popular. This type of headset offers a natural audio experience, allowing you to enjoy a wider soundstage.
As for the closed-back design, you get to listen to some “artificial” sound, although this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not good. This headphone offers a much better sound pressure level. Its bass is punchier while the treble is more detailed. While the open back headphones offer similar characteristics, this headphone is usually more expensive.
There are also audiophile headphones that are somewhere between the open back and closed-back headphones. These headphones will provide you the benefits that you can get from each type of headphone.
Related Article: Best Bass Headphones
There are tons of audiophile headphones in the market, but do you know which among them are right for you? Can you afford any of them, given your limited budget?
To help you with this, we’ve compiled a list of the best budget audiophile headphones below.
1 – Aiwa Arc-1 Bluetooth Over-Ear Wireless Headphones
First on this list is the Aiwa Arc-1 Bluetooth Wireless Headphone. This is an over-ear headphone that has a pretty basic design. But despite its simple design, this headphone is very reliable.
Also, it comes with red speaker covers that are printed with L and R, which comes in handy for when you need to quickly listen to music and you are in a hurry to put the headphones on.
On top of the letter L that’s on the left speaker, you’ll find information about the headphone, such as the serial number. There’s also a web address that you need to access whenever you need information or support.
This device is covered by a 90-day return policy as well as a three-year warranty. They also claim to have a “no questions asked” return policy so you can always return the device with no hassles.
It’s pretty clear that the Aiwa Arc-1 Bluetooth Wireless Headphone was created for the mass audience instead of a selected group that would prefer the bass-heavy model or something with a bright sound.
This headphone’s sound signature is slightly smooth and warm. The bass is boosted, but just enough to let you enjoy a few hours of listening to music with no comfort issues. Some customers have referred to it as something “mellow.”
In addition, the smooth character of the speaker is pretty forgiving and this means that the audio files with lower quality may sound better than on a more expensive headphone. This is especially the case if you are streaming music using your mobile phone through a Bluetooth connection.
It has a long-lasting battery life of 20 hours
Lightweight and comfortable
Comes with USB charging cables
Can connect seamlessly to two Bluetooth sources
Made from poor quality materials
2 – Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
We recommend the Audio Technica ATH Headphones to those who are looking for the best audiophile headphones for gaming. It’s one of the cheapest headphones to use for gaming purposes.
They are very versatile and look great too, which is what most gamers would prefer for their headphones. These headphones are foldable and can be worn comfortably even for a long period.
The Audio Technica ATH-M50x is well built and sturdy. You can be certain that it’s guaranteed to last for a long time. Aside from gaming, this is also a great headphone to use in listening to your favorite music. However, we don’t think it can work as a studio monitor as what the name is trying to suggest.
This audiophile headphone features an over-ear closed-back design. Most of the materials used in making these headphones are plastic, although they are of excellent quality.
Some of the components are made from metal and so is the headband. Just like its predecessors, the ATH-M50X and ATH-M50, this model is pretty durable. The manufacturer has spiced it up a bit by offering a version in different shades of red, white, and blue.
Unlike the M50X, this new model comes with a removable cable. Additionally, the headphone connectors have a locking mechanism that helps to ensure it will not get disconnected while using the headphones to listen to your favorite music.
To enhance the level of comfort, the headband of the Audio Technica ATH-M50x is designed with a plusher and softer feel. This is also the same for the ear pads. Therefore, even if you use the headphone very frequently and for a longer time, you won’t suffer from any discomfort.
What’s more, the headphone won’t fall from your head easily unlike the other headphone models, which is why this is one of those audiophile headphones that we found to be suitable for while you’re on the go.
Offers a deep and accurate bass response
Exceptional clarity even in an extended frequency range
Available in three different colors
45-mm aperture drivers are pretty large
Recommended by top audio engineers and professional audio reviewers
Not the cheapest of the bunch
3 – Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR Over-Ear Open-Air Headphone
This next pair of headphones are made by Philips, a brand that’s famous all over the world for producing some of the best quality headphones. But for this audiophile headphone, they seem to have gone on the drawing board to come up with a winning product.
The Audio Fidelio X2HR Headphone comes with new drivers that rely on a multi-layered diaphragm, a technology that was introduced in Philip’s S2 in-ear headphones. This model is said to be capable of providing a more accurate bass response as well as a cleaner treble.
As for the jack, it’s now 3.5mm, although they have included a 6.3 mm adapter for this unit. The cosmetic changes in this unit aren’t really drastic and have followed the beautiful and solid built design of the predecessors.
In addition, this model features an open-back ear cups made of mesh. The ear pads are velour covered and made of memory foam. There’s also a detachable cable with a clip.
The headband of this unit is made of leather and is guaranteed to be strong and durable. In terms of the style and overall build, this unit is pretty classy. Unfortunately, this is not one of those audiophile headphones that we would recommend for use while on the go.
But we’re happy to say that this unit has taken the smooth and spacious sound that the X1 is known to produce, which is really impressive, especially since it comes with added detail, solidity, and clarity.
Hi-resolution audio-certified that comes with comprehensive response frequencies
Acoustic open-back design
50-mm HD neodymium drivers that come with LMC diaphragm
Not very comfortable to wear
4 – Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone
The Sony MDR-7506 is a great headphone for travel due to its portability. It’s very useful for monitoring professional field recordings, although it’s also one of the best beginner audiophile headphones.
This model has been used by professionals for many years and is a somewhat upgraded version of the previous model, the MDR-V6, which has been around since the seventies! Yes, that’s right.
When Sony had just invented digital audio, the company would tie the MDR-7506 and MDR-V6 headphones with their digital audio recorders. As a matter of fact, this is the main reason why you’ll find the label “For digital” all over the MDR-V6.
The MDR-7506 is almost the same with the classic MDR-V6, except that it has a “professional” written on the side instead of “digital.” Also, the connector is plated with gold.
Even though Sony has not confirmed this, the company has actually sold tens of thousands of these headphones each month!
Includes a ¼-inch adapter
Folds up easily for convenient storage in the provided soft case
It comes with Neodymium magnets and 40-mm drivers
Closed ear design, which enhances comfort and reduces external noises
The 9.8-ft cord has gold plated plugs that are not detachable
Might not be suitable for large heads
5 – Sennheiser HD 600 Open Back Professional Headphone
When it comes to budget audiophile headphones, the Sennheiser HD 600 Open Back Headphone would be a great choice. It’s one of those affordable headphones that will encourage you to listen to your favorite tunes over and over again, thanks to the excellent sound quality that it produces.
This may be the first time you have encountered this headphone model but it has been around for a while. In fact, if you search about this unit online, you’ll come across several reviews talking about how great this pair of headphones is.
Most of the materials used in making this headphone are plastic. The materials are hard and have speckled stone designs. This same material is what surrounds the earcups and was also used in the headband. But unlike the other plastic headphones, this model is not flimsy. You won’t feel it’s cheaply made.
The earpads and headband of the headphone are also made with memory foam and have velour covering in them. There’s a metal band that attaches the headband and earcups, which you can easily adjust to fit with your head size.
Open metal mesh earpiece covers are of high-quality
Neodymium ferrous magnets help maintain excellent dynamics and optimum sensitivity
Elegantly finished in black and gray and has a sophisticated design
Comes with lightweight aluminum voice coils that ensure superior transient response
Tends to produce lots of noise
6 – Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO Headphone
When it comes to the best cheap audiophile headphones, the Beyerdynamic is one of those brands that stand out. Despite it being affordable, you can expect a lot from this headphone. Whether you need something portable or a headphone that you can use in a studio, this is the model that you can rely on.
Of all the closed-back headphones we’ve come across, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro is certainly one of the best. You’ll get it at a cheap price but with a quality that matches the more expensive audiophile headphone models.
As for the design, the DT 770 Pro is somewhat similar to most of the Beyerdynamic headphones. It is mostly made from metal and with a few components that are made from plastic. The earpad’s outer case is made of high-quality materials and is durable enough to withstand the daily wear and tear without fail.
The headband used for the DT 770 Pro is made entirely from metal and covered with leather. It has soft padding and can be bent slightly to accommodate different shapes and sizes of head.
There’s a metal band that joins the headband to the earcups. They are of high quality and feel very rigid. However, the hinges are made from plastic and could break easily if you’re not careful.
The headphone’s overall weight is negligible compared to other circumaural headphones. It has a comfortable headband and can be easily adjusted to fit the shape of your head. This model comes with well-padded ear pads and covered with a soft and breathable cloth.
The earpads might feel stiff at first. However, after regular use, you’ll find them pretty comfortable. This unit’s clamping force is quite good. You won’t feel any discomfort even when wearing the headphones for a long time.
The soft and circumaural velour ear pads help enhance comfort
Suitable for professional monitoring and recording
Hard-wearing, tough, and robust
Closed over-ear headphones
Produces terrible sound
7 – Philips SHP9500 HiFi Precision Stereo Over-Ear Headphones
The Phillips SHP9500 is an excellent pair of headphones and one of the best budget audiophile headphones out there. These headphones are incredibly comfortable to wear. They have a sturdy and lightweight built and you can easily tell that this unit is very durable.
The SHP9500 may not be one of those casual headphones that you can use outdoors, but they are definitely capable of delivering excellent and well-balanced sound quality that is of the same level as the more expensive models.
Featuring a utilitarian design that looks impressive but not too flashy, this audiophile headphone has a matte black color scheme highlighted with a beautiful metal frame. You’ll find the Philips branding on its headband and ear cups, similar to the other Philips headphones out there.
The Philips SHP9500 headphones are comfortable to wear. They fit well to the ears and head of most users. Unlike the other models, you won’t find this headphone too tight or heavy.
In addition, the headband is well padded and coated with a fabric that’s slightly rough. Some users might find this a bit uncomfortable on the skin unlike those that are made from faux leather.
When it comes to portability, however, the Philips SHP9500 headphone is not a good choice. These headphones are a bit large and won’t fold into a compact shape.
Furthermore, the headphone’s earcups won’t lay flat to save space, which is another disadvantage. You may need to carry it in a backpack. What’s even more disappointing is the fact that these headphones don’t come with a pouch or case.
Good audio reproduction
Design is comfortable
Not portable – big and bulky
8 – Focal Clear Over-Ear High-Resolution Audiophile Headphones
When it comes to the best affordable audiophile headphones, another model that we would gladly recommend is the Focal Clear Over-ear Audiophile Headphone.
It’s by far one of the best models in the lower-end price range. This product is pretty superior and appeals to audiophiles and discerning music lovers who need a headphone that can produce the finest sound possible.
This headphone has an over-ear open-back design and produces a more spacious and enveloping soundscape. In fact, some customers who have tried them have noted that there’s almost no barrier to the outside world.
It offers a superior sensation of openness, which is impressive. However, this design can be seen as a 2-edged sword. Listening to music in an environment filled with outside noise or in an area with high noise can be somewhat challenging.
Also, it’s definitely not a good idea to take this headphone with you at the library since anyone can easily hear the music you’re listening to even from a reasonable distance.
This headphone features an M-shaped inverted dome design with a full range driver that measures 40mm. It’s made from a combination of magnesium and alloy and is capable of reproducing frequencies between 5Hz and 28kHz, which are well beyond the human hearing range.
This headphone is capable of delivering impressive responses across an entire range of frequencies. The headband of the Focal Clear Over-Ear Audiophile Headphones is wrapped with gray leather and the underside is made from microfiber that has a 1mm perforation.
The headphone has perforated ear pads and thanks to its open-back design, you will not end up with sweaty ears even if you wear these headphones for hours.
Circum-aural open-back headphones
Decent range of sensitivity, which is at 104dB SPL/1mW @ 1kHz
The excellent frequency response of 5Hz to 28kHz
It’s an open high-fidelity headphone that’s made in France
Overall build quality could be better
9 – AKG K240STUDIO Semi-Open Headphones
Another pair of headphones that we would recommend to those who are in need of the best affordable audiophile headphones. It costs less than $100, yet it produces an above-average sound quality.
What’s more, the headphones are comfortable enough to wear and provide an immersive audio experience. However, when it comes to versatility, this pair of headphones may not be a good choice. They don’t perform well when used in loud environments. Plus, they are bulky and can be cumbersome to carry.
This particular model has a similar design to that of the other headphones under the K series. The headband has that familiar old school design and comes with circular ear cups.
However, the materials used for this headphone are not as good as for the K712 Pro and K702. Also, they have a pretty bland design with a dull color scheme.
Nevertheless, the K240 MKII is comfortable to wear. They are lightweight and are not that tight on your head so you won’t feel any discomfort even when you wear it for a long time.
Furthermore, the ear cups are sufficiently padded and will not cause soreness on the ears unlike the other headphones out there. But it’s worth noting that since the ear cups are circular in shape, it won’t fit well on larger ears.
Also, the lack of padding decreases the level of comfort, although this won’t be noticeable once you put the headphones on. The K240 MKII audiophile headphones are not the best choice when it comes to portable headphones.
These units are bulky and can’t be folded. Also, their ear cups won’t lay flat and will take up a lot of space in your bag. Thus, it can be a hassle to carry around.
Can be used for studio monitoring and recording
Comes with a 3-meter replaceable cable
Comfortable and lightweight design
Sensitive to ambient noise
10 – Focal Elegia Audiophile Circum-Aural Closed-Back Over-Ear Headphones
When it comes to premium headphones, the Focal Elegia Audiophile Over-Ear Headphones are highly recommended. But if you’re going for this model, you should be ready to pay the hefty price tag. Thus, it’s not the best choice when it comes to budget audiophile headphones.
Also, these headphones don’t only look expensive – they feel expensive too. Some brands that sell higher-end headphone models tend to neglect the appearance, but this is not the case for this headphone. You’ll get exactly what you pay for – a high-quality audiophile headphone with a great design.
Featuring a sleek silver and black design, this headphone is certainly one of the best-looking audiophile headphones out there. It’s pretty solid and is definitely built to last for a long time.
The headphone is equipped with a headband that’s made from aluminum and has the right amount of flex, giving your ears a super comfortable and soft feeling. Moreover, the ear cup swivels around on the headband for a more optimal fit.
You’ll also get a carrying case with every purchase of this headphone. Thus, they are highly portable. Of course, they are also great for home use, which is not always the case for other higher-end headphones that come at the same price range.
Circum-aural closed-back designed headphones
Cutting-edge research and overall design has been meticulously considered
Sound reproduction is very precise
There are other better options at a cheaper price
Dynamic vs Electrostatic vs Planar Magnetic
When it comes to audiophile headphones, you get to choose from dynamic, planar magnetic, and electrostatic headphones. These terms might be new to you but we don’t need to dig deeper into each of these headphones. Instead, we’ll talk more about whether to get dynamic headphones or the planar magnetic.
Because of its hefty price tag, the electrostatic headphone is not too popular among audiophiles. Most headphones in the market are the dynamic type. These headphones provide a much larger soundstage when compared to planar magnetic headphones. Yet, they are more prone to distortion, especially when playing music at high volume.
In terms of the overall design, the planar magnetic headphones are usually larger compared to dynamic headphones. But the most notable feature of the planar headphones is that they have the ability to minimize the level of audio distortion when compared to dynamic headphones. However, their biggest downside is that the headphones are heavier while the soundstage is not as wide when compared to dynamic headphones.
Electrostatic headphones are really expensive. In fact, they are known for being the most elite of all the headphones in the market. The most notable aspect of these headphones is that they allow you to enjoy a more natural sound experience compared to the other types of headphones.
The electrostatic headphones will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the music you are listening to and will give you a feeling of being present in the actual sound environment. But the biggest downside of using electrostatic headphones is that you’ll need to use a special electrostatic amplifier, which is also expensive.
The need to use an amplifier reduces the headphone’s portability since it can be a burden to carry a large amplifier anywhere you go.
Just because you are on a budget, doesn’t necessarily mean that you just have to settle with low-quality audiophile headphones. As you can see from the list above, there are lots of great audiophile headphones that won’t blow your budget.
For instance, the Aiwa Arc-1 Bluetooth Over-Ear Wireless Headphones is only a little over $100, yet it comes with excellent features. This model is definitely one of the best budget audiophile headphones that we would highly recommend.
It uses Bluetooth technology and produces incredible sound. Furthermore, this pair of headphones is lightweight so you won’t feel any discomfort even when you wear them for hours.