With the Holidays right around the corner it's a great time to take a look at some of the best sounding audiophile headphones under $500! We'll be doing weekly guides breaking it down by Driver type (Dynamic, Planar Magnetic, etc..) and we'll also be including whether you will need a Digital to Analog Convertor (DAC) and Headphone Amplifier.
As each guide gets written we will be updating the bullet points below with links to each of them for easy navigation.
- Best Dynamic Driver Headphones under $500
- Best Planar Magnetic Headphones under $500
- Best In-Ear Headphones (IEMs) under $500
- Best Dynamic Driver Headphones from $500 - $1500
- Best Planar Magnetic Headphones from $500 - $1500
- Best In-Ear Headphones (IEMs) from $500 - $1500
- Best Dynamic Driver Headphones over $1500
- Best Planar Magnetic Headphones over $1500
- Best In-Ear Headphones (IEMs) over $1500
Kicking things off is the best dynamic driver headphones under $500.
Dynamic Driver Headphones
Sennheiser HD 560s - $199.95
Kicking off the list of dynamic driver headphones is the Sennheiser HD 560s. The Sennheiser HD560S uses a brand new 120 ohm dynamic driver aimed at improving bass response. This is different from the one found in Sennheiser’s higher impedance (300 ohm) HD6XX and HD600 headphones. This makes the 560s an easier to drive headphone and is usable with most DACs & Amps like the Topping L30 Amp and E30 DAC or the Schiit Magni Heresy+. It also makes the Sennheiser HD 560s one of the best value dynamic driver headphones on the market.
- Earpiece Design: Over-Ear (Circumaural), Open-Back
- Earpiece Connection / Wearing Style: Wired
- Driver Type: Dynamic
- Impedance: 120 Ohms
- Active Noise Cancellation: No
- Frequency Response: 6 Hz to 38 kHz
- Maximum Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 110 dB at 1 kHz / 1 Vrms
- Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): 0.05%
- Audio Connector to Source: 1 x 1/4" TRS Male
- Adapter (Included): 1/8" / 3.5 mm TRS
- Cable Design: Single-Sided, Detachable
- Cable Length: 9.8' / 3 m
- Cable Color: Black
- Weight: 8.5 oz / 240 g (without Cable)
Sennheiser HD 6XX - $220
Sennheiser's HD 600 series is legendary for a reason and one of the HD 600, HD 650 or HD 660s is a staple in any headphone enthusiast's collection. However, if we were looking to pick the best price-to-performance the Sennheiser / Drop HD 6XX would have to take the cake.
The 6XX has a sound that has worldwide appeal with a warmer sound and intimate soundstage. You'll be able to power the HD 6XX with almost any DAC / Amp however because the 6XX does have 300 ohm drivers, the better the amp you have feeding it the better sound you're going to get. While we're not going to recommend something like the SPL Phonitor XE at $2000 for a pair of 6XX, something like the Topping A90 at $499.99 will give you plenty of power.
- Massdrop x Sennheiser
- Color: Midnight blue
- Transducer principle: Open, dynamic
- Frequency response: 10 Hz – 41 kHz
- THD: < 0.05%
- Nominal impedance: 300 ohm
- Cable length: 6 ft (1.8 m)
- Connector: ⅛ in (3.5 mm)
- Weight without cable: 9.2 oz (260 g)
- Made in Romania
Meze 99 Classics - $309
While the two Sennheiser headphones above are both excellent headphones, they are also open-back headphones that provide no isolation. When you're listening in a noisy environment closed-back headphones are a must and the Meze 99 Classics are a fantastic choice. The 99 Classics not only look amazing, they sound far and above how they should at their price point. If you like headphones with a clean, detailed natural sound and punchy bass that isn’t over the top these are the headphones for you.
The Meze 99 Classics will have no issues being powered straight from your phone / computer however if you're looking to get the most out of them something like the sleek and portable iFi Audio Hip DAC at $149.99 will work wonderfully.
- Transducer size: 40mm
- Frequency response: 15Hz - 25KHz
- Sensitivity: 103dB at 1KHz, 1mW
- Impedance: 32 Ohm
- Rated input power: 30mW
- Maximum input power: 50mW
- Detachable Kevlar OFC cable
- Plug: 3.5mm gold plated
- Weight: 260 gr (9.2 ounces) without cables
- Ear-cups: walnut wood
Focal Elegia - Under $500
The Focal Elegia is another closed-back headphone that was originally released at $899 and was a great headphone at that price. Recently discontinued, the Elegia can now be found for under $500 and is fantastic value. The Elegia is very easy to drive and while you can run it straight from your phone, it will still benefit from a portable DAC / Amp option like the iFi Audio Hip DAC or the desktop iFi Audio Zen Stack.
- Driver Size: 1.57" / 39.88 mm
- Driver Type: Dynamic
- Design: Over-Ear (Circumaural)
- Earcup Style: Closed-Back
- Frequency Response: 5 Hz to 23 kHz
- Sensitivity: 105 dB at 1 kHz / 1 mW
- Impedance: 35 Ohms
- Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): 0.1%
- Active Noise Cancellation: No
- Foldable: No
- Audio Connector to Source: 1/8" / 3.5 mm TRS Straight
- Adapter (Included): 1/4" TRS
- Connector to Earpiece: 2 x 1/8" / 3.5 mm
- Cable Design: Y-Type
- Cable Color: Black, Silver
- Detachable: Yes
- In-Line Remote/Microphone: No
- Cable Length: 3.94' / 1.20 m (Flat)
- Material of Construction: Aluminum, Fabric, Leather
- Weight: 0.95 lb / 430 g
- Package Weight: 4.71 lb
- Box Dimensions (LxWxH): 12.6 x 11.9 x 7.3"
Stay tuned next week for the Best Planar Magnetic Headphones under $500!