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Best full size hi-fi headphones to buy in 2015 - Expert Reviews

"Our review of the top 10 best full size hi-fi headphones - we rate the best headphones for home Hi-Fi and movies."

Best Full Size Over-Ear Headphones

We've collected the best full size hi-fi headphones from under £100 to over £1000 from 2015. The reviews are designed to help you choose from the massive selection of hi-fi and audiophile headphones with open back and closed back designs available. From trusted brands like Shure and Grado, to the freshest new brands like SoundMAGIC and Final Audio Design.

Scroll down for in depth reviews of our favourite full size open back and closed back headphones.

Shop: Visit our Over-Ear Headphones Store.

More Info: Read our Best On-Ear Headphones Buying Guide.

 

Best Over-Ear Headphones Under £100

Grado SR80i

grado sr80iThere are not many good Hi-Fi headphones for under £100, but the SR80i is an exception.  The Grado SR80i is a great first step into high quality full size Hi-Fi headphones. Choosing the best Grado headphone is a little tricky as they are all excellent, but the sensibly priced Grado SR80i headphone is a worthy contender for best entry level on ear Hi-Fi headphone.

The SR80i is a energetic sounding headphone, with excellent clarity through the mids/highs, highly detailed resolution and a solid bass kick. Grado's have a very up-front sound that can bring music to life. The SR80i is an on-ear headphone, so they can require a bit of re-adjusting after some use to get them comfortable again.

Unlike some audiophile class headphones the Grado SR80i's are sensitive enough to give good response without any dedicated amplification, as they are rated at a very efficient 32 ohms.

All of the Grado range are fully open back headphones, which means sound can leak in and out of the ear cup. If this isn't a problem then the SR80i is a very solid choice for a home listening Hi-Fi headphone.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

Delivery stunningly good sound quality for the price. If the open back headphone design is no problem then you should definitely consider this headphone.

 

Best Over-Ear Headphones Under £200

Beyerdynamic DT770

beyerdynamics DT770Featuring a fully sealed (closed back) design and extremely robust build quality, the Beyerdynamic DT770 is a real workhorse of a headphone that is suitable for daily use and abuse.

With a pedigree in studio and live recording, Beyerdynamic is the number one choice at the BBC - check out photos on the BBC Radio 1 website and you will see most guests wearing the DT770.

Bass response is powerful and positional accuracy is excellent, making this a firm favourite for gaming and movies. However, the DT770 is a versatile headphone and is great for long music listening sessions also.

The DT770 is available in an easy to drive 80 Ohm version (suitable for home and even mobile listening) and also a much harder to drive 250 Ohm version that is designed to be plugged into a high output power mixing desk or dedicated headphone amp.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

Robustly built and with superb sound quality, if you are looking for a closed back headphone with a big sound then the DT770 should be high on your list.

SoundMAGIC HP150

SoundMAGIC's second generation full size HP150 headphone (replacing the excellent HP100) is a fantastic addition to any audiophile headphone setup.  With a natural midrange, wide soundstage and excellent detail resolution, the HP150 has an engaging sound that makes this a perfect everyday headphone for home or the office.

Despite the closed back headphone design, music is given breathing space and voices sound natural.  Overall a very well balanced headphone.

The low impedance of the HP150 makes them suitable for use with portable players without the need for further amplification.

Generously padded earcups and adjustable headband provide for a comfortable listening experience, even during longer listening sessions. The construction of the HP150 is very solid, and the earcups swivel so the headphone can easily be stored in the included hard case.

The HP150 is a closed back model; this headphone type is best for situations where isolation is requires, but if this is not an issue then also consider the SoundMAGIC HP200, which is generally thought of as better for natural-sounding music.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

The HP150 represents fantastic value for money and gives a sound which is engaging, fun and of impressive quality. Great for all genres.

 

Best Over-Ear Headphones Under £500

Shure SRH1540

shure SHR1540With this closed-back full size headphones, Shure have made a fantastic headphone for people who like their bass, but without the bloat of similar ‘basshead’ headphones when it comes to a wide range of music and styles. However, the SRH1540 will pick up and run with higher levels of bass if the track has them – lower quality recordings/mixes are faithfully reproduced.

The overall sound is exciting, yet smooth. It has been said that they give the sound of music recorded using ribbon microphones and there is a hint of a vintage feel to the sound.

They are immediately engaging, and along with a fine build quality they are certainly headphones to hanker for; aircraft-grade aluminium alloy and carbon fibre make for some very solid headphones indeed, while at 286g, they are very light considering the materials and solid feel.

The impedance/sensitivity of these headphones should be suitable for most portable players and applications, but a portable amp will allow them to be at their best.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

If you like a good warm detailed sound but find higher frequencies tend to lead to fatigue, then these headphones are definitely recommended.

HiFiMAN HE-400

hifiman HE-400A relatively new name, HiFiMAN has made itself very well known in recent years with its range of planar magnetic headphones among other models.

The HE-400 is a very low-cost taste of what this technology can do with your music; the bass is not like anything heard from dynamic headphones, and the soundstage and imaging is breathtaking.

The bass is not bloated or overemphasised; it is simply replicated in the headphones so that it is felt by the ear, as well as heard. Sub bass is sublime.

The 440g weight may not suit everyone but there is some wonderful technology to account for; the HE-400 is certainly for those who accept no compromise when it comes to sound quality.

The sound signature is rich and detailed; there is a slight roll-off at the top end making these relatively warm but not at the expense of details. This is one to consider if you dislike too much high-frequency energy getting in the way.

Their wide-open design may not lend itself well to shared environments such as the train or bus, but with headphones like these to listen to, why would you want to go out?

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

The HiFiMAN HE-400s are heavy hitters when listening at home and lend a wonderful weight to any music.

 

Best Over-Ear Headphones Under £1000

Final Audio Design Pandora Hope VI

The Pandora Hope VI is the bigger brother to the Hope IV model and includes the same hybrid driver technology, i.e. two speakers per ear.

Constructed with both dynamic and a balanced armature drivers, the Hope VI delivers the warm and engaging sound most headphone users are looking for, but with greater accuracy and speed when compared to similarly-priced dynamic models. There is no crossover; the full frequency range of both drivers is used.

The Hope models have a BAM (balancing air movement) mechanism to ensure that air flowing within the earcups does not compromise the sound; this, with the dual driver technology, leads to a listening experience which is great value for money.

Made from matt-finished ABS thermoplastic resin, the Hope IV has a very solid and well built feel – these have been made to last through many years of listening pleasure. The earpads feature a highly elastic synthetic leather material which provides a good seal for great bass response and further isolation.

The 1.5m detachable cable is also great quality, with strain reliefs to ensure that it remains free of problems should the cable get snagged.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

The Hope VI is certainly worth considering as an upgrade if you like listening to details within music and appreciate great imaging, but do not want to compromise where it comes to bass.

Ultrasone Signature Pro

Ultrasone sSgnature Pro Ultrasone’s range includes some fantastic portables and the Signature pro is no exception. Easily driven, these headphones are perfect for commuting or around town. The modest design is low-profile enough for those who want to stay under the headphone fashion radar; the spartan design belies the rich, sumptuous sound within.

Featuring Ultrasone’s own S-Logic™ Natural Surround system, these have the ‘speakers in a room’ effect due to the way the technology uses your ears as part of how they work. The audio is reflected off of the pinna of the ear into the ear canal just as sound is naturally, leading to a fully immersive presentation.

The Signature Pro has bass which is not overblown or pumped up; it is bright without being sibilant and the midrange is well balanced with great detail. Soundstage is amazing and isolation is impressive.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

At home on the train or in the living room, the Ultrasone Signature pro takes high-end audio wherever you wish to go. Altogether, a very solidly built and high quality portable.

Beyerdynamic Tesla T1

beyerdynamic T1Founded in 1924 Beyerdynamic is one of the oldest names in audio and still manufactures most of their products in Germany by hand. The Tesla T1 is the culmination of many years of experience, which is evident from the beautiful finish of the headphone and superbly balanced sound. Delivered in its aluminium flight case the Beyer T1 has a solid industrial beauty that exudes high end build quality.

The A1 amplifier is the perfect partner to the T1 which at 600ohms is not an east headphone to drive. With its unique intelligent-circuit concept the Beyerdynamic A1 is capable of reproducing an amazingly wide frequency range which stretches way above human perception. Underneath the large front-panel-mounted aluminium volume control is a high grade ALPS-potentiometer for smooth volume adjustment. This is just part of the attention to detail that ranges from the outer unit construction to its quality integral components - use of a generously-dimensioned toroidal core transformer, plus a combination of carefully selected components allows even the highest-impedance headphones to be driven flawlessly over the entire frequency range.

We feel the Tesla T1 is the best balanced, most comfortable high end headphone available. Offering a level of insight that is at times staggering, the T1 breathes life into music. If there is one problem with this headphone it is the fact you cannot listen to basic quality MP3’s or fizzy low res music – the T1 is simply too revealing and compressed music is shown up for its lack of definition.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

The sound is fluid and natural, there is a fast sense of detail that is crisp and precise without being fatiguing. The headphones themselves are surprisingly light and in typical Beyer style really comfy.

Fostex TH-900

fostex TH-900The Fostex TH-900 is among the best sounding closed-back headphones, they are a treat for anyone who likes a smooth, effortless presentation.

With a low impedance of 25 ohms and 100dB sensitivity, these can be enjoyed on the move or at home; however a separate amplifier is required to get the best out of them if used for portable applications.

They have a warm sound signature, but at the same time have a speed and tightness which provides a lot of impact in the bass region. They are well balanced and the sound really must be heard to be believed; the TH-900 exudes beautiful quality in terms of both sound and build.

The protein leather earpads feel as comfortable against the skin as the music feels against the ear; these are amazingly comfortable headphones and really deserve the high esteem in which they are held by audiophiles everywhere.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

Possibly the best quality closed-back headphones currently on the market. The price only seems high if you haven’t heard them yet!

 

Best Over-Ear Headphones Over £1000

Grado PS1000

grado ps1000-The flagship Grado PS1000 is a headphone for someone looking for the very best headphone available. With the ear cups hand internally crafted with mahogany, while the outer is machined from a non-resonant metal material. The drivers are manufactured to tolerances far exceeding normal expectations, making the PS1000 a very special headphone that deserves serious attention.

Often described as a portable listening room, the PS1000 offers levels of clarity and detail that is normally reserved for dedicated listening spaces costing tens of thousands to construct.

When choosing a high end headphone like the PS1000 the best advice we can offer is to try the headphones out for yourself with your own equipment (we offer a 30 day money back guarantee).

The PS1000 sounds best when matched with a good quality headphone amplifier, but is relatively easy to drive and can sound great connected with any good quality audio source.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

We are big fans of the "Grado sound" and the PS1000 has the trademark lively, detailed delivery that is both engaging and exciting. This headphone has to be heard if you are serious about your music.

Audeze LCD-3

Audeze LCD-3The LCD-3 is a headphone which does not compromise in the search for the highest quality audio reproduction. The planar magnetic drivers deliver a very fast and powerful sound, with breathtaking imaging and realism. Your music will come to life.

More than one audiophile has remarked that these are the best headphones they’ve heard, and they certainly live up to their reputation.

Individual instruments are as real to the listener as the spaces they’re recorded in; the effect is a truly immersive listening experience which is hard to find anywhere else outside of full electrostatics.

The LCD3 is a headphone for enjoying at home – the weight and wide open-backed design is not for the street or more strenuous activities; also a headphone amp is recommended.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

Whilst you wonder how people can afford to buy these headphones, LCD-3 owners everywhere are marvelling at how you can go without them.

About Shaun Gostelow

Shaun is co-founder of hifiheadphones.co.uk and spends most of his time dealing with the business side of running the store, but still loves listening to music with headphones just the same as ever.
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