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Best headphones to buy in 2015

"Expert reviews of the best headphones & earphones of all types - we rate the best headphones you can buy from £50 to over £500."

Looking for the best headphones?

We've collected together the best headphones of 2015 and written reviews of our favourites.  You will also find more detailed guides to the best headphones for specific types at the following links:

More: Best in-ear headphones review

More: Best portable on-ear headphones review

More: Best full size headphones review

More: Best wireless headphones review

 

Best In Ear Headphones:

SoundMAGIC E10 Earphones

soundmagic E10The SoundMAGIC E10 is from the second generation of earphones from SoundMAGIC, and simply must belong in our Best Headphones Top 10, The first generation PL11 and PL30 really pushed the boundaries of what you could expect from an entry level earphone, so SoundMAGIC had quite a task bettering their existing designs. We think they've excelled themselves with the E10.

The E10's sound signature has similarities to the massively popular PL11 (i.e. a powerful, fun sound with plenty of bass), but with a greater level of control and improved musical detail. The E10 is an improvement over the PL11 in every way. Sound quality is exceptional.

The earphone is constructed from a lightweight fully metal frame, which ensures the earphones will survive every day use. Cabling is high quality and the jack plug is very well made. To get the best in-ear fit and sound we recommend T-400 Comply Foam tips - the E10s have quite large nozzles, which is tricky to fit for those with smaller ear canals.

The E10 sounds good, looks good, is very well made and you will struggle to find another earphone to compete with it under £70.

If you need a microphone for use with a mobile phone check out the equally impressive SoundMAGIC E10S.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

A very nicely designed earphone with sound quality that is sure to impress. The earphone is built to a very high standard and rivals the big brands. Cannot be beaten at this price point.

Final Audio Design Heaven II

final audio design heaven-IIFinal Audio have a fantastic range for all pockets and ears, and this is Heaven too!

Machined from stainless steel, these stylish earphones feature a single balanced armature driver, with bass frequencies assisted with Final Audio’s BAM (Balanced Air Movement) design; this boosts the bass frequencies which are generally seen as weak on single balanced-armature models.

The mid range is neutral sounding, clear and uncluttered, with good detail and presence while higher frequencies are rolled off a little; high hats and crashes will be less prominent but still attention grabbing considering the neutral mid-range.

Soundstage, imaging and separation are of excellent quality for an in-ear of this price. Isolation is good and the Heaven II can be worn with the cable over the ear, although it is designed chiefly to be worn down from the ear.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

Fantastic quality for well under £100. A full bodied presentation from a single balanced armature which sounds as good as it looks.

Dita – The Answer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis little brother to the pricier ‘Truth Edition’ model is no stranger to sincerity itself; machined from solid aluminium, the capsules are designed to avoid adding their own colouration to the sound, and are weighted to lean into the ear for greater comfort and a better seal. They aren't heavy but just weighty enough to let you know they mean business, and the cable is reassuringly stout.

Much like other similarly-priced dynamic driver IEMs, the sound is what you might expect; bright without being sibilant, well balanced mids, well controlled but slightly elevated bass. There’s a smoothness from this type of large diameter driver which I never fail to appreciate, and along with its speed and accuracy, it brings any music to life with aplomb.

Soundstage and imaging are first class, and the use of a headphone amp can really add the cherry to the cake in terms of realism.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

IEMs like the Dita are showing once again that dynamic drivers can be every bit as fast and vibrant-sounding as their balanced armature counterparts, with added smoothness to give a wonderfully analogue impression.

Sennheiser IE800

sennheiser-ie800-220x220The IE800 Sennheisers new flagship audiophile earphones. Featuring a linear-phase driver system that achieves distortion-free audio even at high sound pressure levels.  Surely Sennheisers most innovative portable music solution, the IE800 meets the demands of portable audio with truly superb sound and comfort. The extra wide band transducer system, with a diameter of just 7mm is the smallest wide-band driver system currently available in dynamic earphones. Innovative vent holes in the housing of the IE800 direct the air flow resulting in minimal distortion levels. Sennheiser's revolutionary dampened two chamber absorbers eliminate the masking of low volume frequencies by absorbing the energy from the louder low-frequency sounds. Build quality is amazing, scratch-resistant ceramic housing, stainless steel air vents and Kevlar coated audio cable, the IE800 is built to last. Two special meshes protect the IE800 against residue and contamination.

The package includes 5 pairs silicone eartips in different sizes, premium leather carrying case, a cleaning tool and instruction manual.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

Brimming with ground-breaking technologies the IE800 are the ultimate IEM for bass lovers. Big warm and powerful sounding, beautifully engineered with an ergonomic and attractive design, these are very special IEMs.

 

Best Home Hi-FI Headphones

Grado SR80i

grado sr80iGrado’s full size headphones are famous for their wide open and airy sound – perfect for live recordings, female vocals and percussion. Rock music also.

The clarity and detail which can be purchased for the sub-£100 price of these headphones is staggering; they are perhaps one of the best value headphones available just now.

Bass is tight and not overstated, mids are rich and highs are heavenly. They are as open-sounding as headphones get, and of course leak sound so are to be enjoyed in a relatively quiet space.

Their low 32 ohm impedance means they can be driven by portable devices, but as with many headphones an amp can really help get the best from them.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

If you are looking at your first quality headphone purchase and you like details and space within music, then look no further than the SR80i.

 Final Audio Design Pandora VI

final audio design pandora hope-VIOne of Final Audio’s full size models, the Pandora VI consists of both dynamic driver and balanced armature drivers, to give both a warm and rich presentation, with no compromise on detail.

Sound from the two drivers melds seamlessly into one weighty and accurate. The closed-back and low impedance design makes them perfect for travel, while they are just as enjoyable relaxing at home.

The stainless steel and ABS thermoplastic resin design gives them a timeless vintage look which belies their cutting edge technology. They really look as clean and exciting as they sound.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

A real contender amongst closed-back headphones, and an exciting new addition to a growing family of hybrid-driver products on the market. These have amazing isolation and detail which can transport you.

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:

Powerful yet tightly controlled bass, luscious mids and sparkling highs make these a treat without compromise or comparison. The effortlessness with which the LCD-3 delivers audio is testament to their excellent build quality.

 

 

Best Portable Headphones:

SoundMAGIC P21 / P21S

The lightweight and portable SoundMAGIC P21 is perfect for the summer and travel; the isolation can keep your music from disturbing your companions and the earcups fold flat for easy storage. The included case will protect them when not in use.

The sound is what you might expect from SoundMAGIC; they have crammed a lot of quality in, considering the low price. Great detail without sibilance, mid-range which is clear and engaging, and bass which is well controlled and in good proportion to the rest of the sound.

Soundstage and imaging certainly make for a immersive experience wherever you go.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

These are the perfect accompaniment for those who wish to travel light and get away; good isolation and a great sound combine to make a traveller’s joy.  Also available with microphone as the P21S.

Grado iGrado

grado igradoWithout doubt the best pair of street style headphones currently on the market are the incredible sounding Grado iGrado headphones (with a reasonably RRP of £49.95). The drivers used in the iGrado are the same as those used in the Grado SR60, so you can expect a lively delivery of your music across the entire frequency range. The iGrado's sound every bit as good as their home listening cousins. The styling of the iGrado's is not too everyone's taste, but who cares what you look like when the music sounds this good!

The only downside for commuters is that the iGrado's have open backs, so sound leaks out and in. This is fine for walking on the street (as long as the traffic isn't too loud), but is no good for travelling on underground trains or while sitting next to someone on a bus.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

If you can live with the open back design the Grado iGrado is the best portable headphone you can own.  Very highly recommended.

KEF M500

kef m500Portable headphones are really getting some attention again, and the M500 is a great example of the type of quality which has entered this market recently. They are designed to hug the shape of the head and look very cool when worn, although the wearer may well be grinning like an idiot!

The sound is of amazing quality and it really is a strange feeling to be enjoying such a presentation whilst walking in the street, for example. They are solidly constructed without being heavy, and feel very comfortable. The earcups consist of a very soft cushion which provides good isolation without causing discomfort, so the high quality sound these deliver can be fully enjoyed.

The sound is wonderfully balanced; the bass is handled very well and is tight without sitting too far back; midrange is clear and unforced, and treble is crisp and grabs attention without getting harsh.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

For the price, these headphones are incredible value; they are the perfect travel companion for anyone who does not like to compromise when on the go.

Aedele VK-1 Classic

Aedle_VK1_220x220You’d be forgiven for assuming that these headphones are from one hundred years ago; from a distance the design harkens back to headphones which might be used to listen to morse code.

Try them however and you’ll realise that these are every bit as sophisticated as their modern-day counterparts; only the build quality is from yesteryear.

Bass is fully present but knows its limits, midrange is clear and fluid, with highs rolled off slightly to avoid fatigue. The VK-1 is a very musical headphone and suits many styles while being very stylish itself.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

These are remarkably beautiful headphones which pack a sonic punch their genteel appearance just does not hint at. High quality leather earpads ensure great comfort, while the sound is vibrant enough to rival any competition on the street.

 

 

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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