In today’s world, it is hard to imagine living without headphones. Finding the right type of headphones for you (note: you might need more than one to be truly happy) can be a tricky process. But don’t worry, we are here to help. Young audiophiles need headphones that bring the big sound that they desire right into their ear drums and we’ve got a plan on how to do it most successfully.
What Are The Types of Audiophile Headphones?
- Over-the-ear (wired)
- Over-the-ear (wireless)
- In-ear-monitors (wired)
- In-ear-monitors (wireless)
- Clip-on (wireless)
- On-stage IEMs (with custom fittings)
- Bone conduction headphones
- Electrostatic headphones
Over-the-ear headphones are the most traditional type of headphones and they come both with and without wires. Audiophiles tend to like wired headphones but people, we live in a wireless world. Take the time to try out plenty of over-the-ear wireless headphones. We like options from audiophile companies like Bowers & Wilkins and Sennheiser. Apple brings a ton of technology to the mix that you will not find elsewhere. Bose and Sony have truly excellent noise cancelation (aka: ANC).
In-ear-monitors are increasingly useful, trendy and evolved. Apple’s Air Buds are an example of an IEM but there are many others. Mainly, these headphones twist into your ear but don’t always have a custom mold made specifically for your ear. Those exist and we will get to that. Most IEMs are coming with ANC (nose cancelation) which can be helpful but without an excellent fit in your personal ear canal, these headphones don’t always take to ANC very well. Most IEMs are wireless and easily chargeable. They are great for workouts and physical activities. Please do be careful with them however in that you don’t want to get run over walking around the big city oblivious to your sonic environment. This is why Apple offers something called “Transparency Mode” which allows you to hear much more of your world along with your music. That’s a great safety solution.
Clip-on headphones come from the workout world and allow for a nice background audio experience but it is hard to call this variety of headphones “audiophile grade”. They are great when you are sweating, outside in the rain or even near a pool.
On-stage IEMs are what most musicians use when performing. Audiophiles have co-opted this concept to use them for audiophile purposes. A perfect example is the Ultimate Ears UE-PRO Capitol Record Remastered IEMs. At about $1,100 per pair, these IEMs require a custom fitting which is very cool in that the molds are made for you and only you. They also have natural, physical noise cancelation. They also are voiced to be “100 percent flat” in terms of their performance so that you can be a professional audio engineer and hear a mix in your ears that has literally no influence from the acoustics, electronics or other factors in a different room. Audiophiles normally order different types of hard-wired cables as performers want their cables hidden in their outfits. Audiophile users tend to like to have little more flexibility for their cables so that they have a little more freedom with any device that they are coupled to.
Bone conduction headphones are crazy. They actually vibrate in a way that resonates in your head and makes sound. This is an out-there concept but a cool one nonetheless. Will you love it? I don’t know – but you you should try some if you ever get the chance.
Electrostatic headphones sound amazing and in many ways more so than actual electrostatic speakers. These open and transparent sounding headphones tend to come in the form of over-the-ear wired headphones. They tend to be harder to drive thus benefit from a dedicated headphone amplifier. For a late-night listening session, you might not find a more high performance pair of headphones at any price and they don’t piss off the neighbors. A win-win, right?
How Do You Buy Audiophile Headphones?
- Best Buy
- Local audiophile shops and salons
- Manufacturer Direct (Apple.com, SonyStyle.com, Bose.com etc…)
Buying headphones online is a reality in that they are easy to ship and can be easily returned if needed. Amazon.com comes to mind first but nearly every audiophile and-or mainstream headphone company sells their goods direct. Target has some pretty good headphones too if you stop to take a look too.
Big-box retailers like Best Buy also are a good place to be able to demo a number of headphones. Don’t forget to swing by the internal “Magnolia” Store inside of Best Buy as they have even higher end headphones that you might like or that you can listen to as to see how the big dollar options perform for you.
Catalog audiophile retailers tend to have really good lists of high end and more obscure brands that are smaller batch producers but often make truly great sounding headphones from brands that you might not be familiar with. Hi-Fi Man, Grado, Focal, Stax and Audeze are some examples of great products that you might not have experience with (but need too)
Specialty brick and mortar or traditional “audio stores” are often the best solution as they understand what is good and perhaps more importantly – what isn’t. Building a relationship with your audiophile store is always a good thing. These are the guys who will let you take a few pairs of headphones home with you for a weekend so that you can spend some time to find the best pair of cans for you.
So do you feel ready to get started with your first pair of audiophile headphones? We’ve given you some of our best tips. Be prepared to have audiophile grade sound everywhere you go from now on. We were happy to be of assistance.