The past few years have been great for sound enthusiasts with the advent of high-performance sound systems and portable high-fidelity audio devices, and 2018 just made the sound scene even better.
Whether you’re a hard-core audiophile or in a line of work that requires top-notch sound quality, you’re going to need a pair of headphones that deliver. Music audiophiles, video editors, and content connoisseurs have a ton of options available to them that’ll cater to most of their needs, but for true audiophiles who are willing to pay a premium for the best sound experience possible with the latest technology, we’ve come up with this list of the best headphones money can buy.
Before we get started, we want to say that there are a lot of great options out there if you’re looking for a superior sound experience. You can find headphones that cater to even the most demanding needs without breaking the bank. There are a lot of budget headphones that come with professional-class specs and deliver groundbreaking sound quality without costing hundreds of dollars of your hard-earned cash.
This list is not for them.
This list is catered to include only the best of the best, the top-of-the-line. These state-of-the-art headphones deliver unprecedented sound quality and features at a premium. They may cost a pretty penny, but if you’re willing to pay the cost, these headphones deliver a revolutionary sound quality that might change the way you think about sound. Here are the best headphones money can buy, and each of them offers a sound experience that, to some, might justify the no-less-than-epic price tags.
What We Look For
Not all headphones are made the same, and some serve better purposes than others. With that said, you’re probably asking what exactly were we looking for when we came up with this list of the best headphones money can buy? The short answer: sound quality.
Full disclosure, this list takes nothing but the best sound quality into account. While we’ve tailored our list to feature different headphones that cater to different purposes and needs, the only real criterion we took to heart when evaluating these headphones is sound quality – top of the line, best of the best, better than anything you’ve ever heard sound quality. And everything on this list meets expectations – and then some.
If you’re looking for the best headphones for your leisure and gaming needs, there’s a ton of great options that offer things you may be looking for, like portability, long-lasting battery life, durability, weather-proofing, that kind of stuff. But if you’re in the market for the bleeding edge in sound quality in consumer headphones, then look no further because this list has what you need.
Our Top Picks for the Best Headphones Money Can Buy
Best Sound: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is bar-none the best sound experience you can get from a set of headphones. The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro delivers an unprecedented sound experience that will literally (okay, not literally) transport you. The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is heavy-duty audio gear built for the most discerning sound connoisseurs and professionals, and for the level of quality it delivers, it has the price tag to match.
The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro comes from world-renowned Beyerdynamic, and while this company is far less popular than other big-name brands like its German counterpart, Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic serves a niche for audiophiles that not just want the best, but demand it. Beyerdynamic is the manufacturer behind world-class audio gear and some of the best options on the market today, including the DT880, DT770, and DT990. Now, the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro takes the stage as our pick for the best headphones money can buy, bar none.
The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro doesn’t just sound like a dream coming true, but the build quality is top-notch so you can expect the DT 1990 Pro to outlast most of your tech – from your tablet to your phone to probably even your laptop, maybe even you. The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is not just super-durable, but it’s super comfortable as well, thanks to its intuitive design and luxurious materials. The DT 1990 Pro compromises nothing in pursuit of the best sound quality, so it comes wired to avoid the sacrifice of quality you would expect from wireless connectivity.
The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 isn’t the most expensive item on our list (far from it), but it’s a significant investment at a $699 SRP. At this price, however, you can expect to get to a pair of headphones that plays to win, that makes no compromises, and that will deliver the best sound experience headphones can offer.
Best Value: Philips Fidelio X2
The Philips Fidelio X2 is a brilliant pair of headphones that come at an excellent price that delivers brilliant value. Everything about this pair of headphones screams “Brilliant!” The Philips Fidelio X2, while relatively cheaper, offers unprecedented, unadulterated premium when it comes to that brilliant (there it is again) marriage of sound quality and comfortable design. The Philips Fidelio X2 may have won in the category of Best Value in our list of the highest-end, cutting edge headphones of 2018, but if we had a category for most comfortable headphones, it would win that, too.
The comfort on the Philips Fidelio X2 is pure premium, and while it fails to deliver the groundbreaking sound quality of the DT 1990 Pro, it still manages to provide an amazing sound experience. With its cloud-like feel, we can imagine how listening to your favorite music might incite a dream-like state. It may sound like we’re exaggerating, but we’re not. The Philips Fidelio X2 is an amazing piece of audio hardware, and the little it compromises regarding sound quality, it makes up for with the sheer amount of comfort it gives to your ears and head.
Excellent build quality, outstanding sound, and premium comfort come together in the Philips Fidelio X2 to make it one of the best headphones money can buy. It may not offer a lot of extra features, but we believe that this level of comfort and the way the Philips Fidelio X 2 pampers your ears while you listen are features in themselves. And at a price tag of just $299, you’ll be able to save quite a by sacrificing not a lot of features and extras you probably don’t even want or need.
Best Budget: 1MORE Triple Driver Over-Ear
We’ve said that this list is for the best headphones money can buy, but that doesn’t mean we’re allergic to great value. If you don’t believe us, here’s the 1MORE Triple Driver Over-Ear Headphones, that delivers great, impactful sound at budget prices. By budget prices, we don’t mean, in any way, that these headphones are cheap, but they are the most budget-friendly headphones on this list with a $249 price tag.
Despite being $50 cheaper than the Philips Fidelio X2, and only costing about half as much as our top pick, the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, the 1MORE Triple Driver Over-Ear headphones are still a force to be reckoned with in the market. 1MORE makes no compromises despite the lower price, and it’s easy to tell with its line of Triple Driver Over-Ear headphones. The 1MORE Triple Driver Over-Ear headphones boast excellent sound quality and top-of-the-line build quality that makes these headphones an overall great value for a high-end product.
Sound-wise, the 1MORE Triple Driver Over-Ear is still extremely capable and provides a detailed and balanced sound quality that has a great emphasis on bass without sacrificing sound quality for the mids and highs. The 1MORE Triple Driver Over-Ear boasts professional-level frequency ranges that’ll satisfy even sound professionals who are willing to invest twice as much or even three or four times the 1MORE’s price tag.
At $249 MSRP, and with no apparent faults on which to base not recommending this excellent piece of audio hardware, the decision to put the 1MORE Triple Driver Over-Ear headphones on this list of the best headphones money can buy was something we did without hesitation. With the 1MORE Triple Driver Over-Ear headphones, you can get the best sound quality – pay less, but get nothing less than the absolute highest-end in audio gear.
Entry-level: Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro
A cheaper alternative to the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is the DT 1770 Pro that is the best option for entry-level audiophiles and sound enthusiasts. Coming from a pedigree of recording studio-quality headphones, the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro doesn’t fall far from the tree – it doesn’t fall far at all. The DT 1770 Pro is built just as well as its newer sibling, the DT 1990 Pro, but with excellent build quality and an aesthetically crafted soundscape, the DT 1770 Pro doesn’t disappoint.
The Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro is a little bulky, but with a brand guarantee for durability and its sleek design, the bulk is immediately offset by the premium feel. The listening experience alone on the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro is one of the best we’ve ever had, and with its dynamic driver, it’s almost impossible not to be impressed at how well Beyerdynamic managed to pull off the DT 1770 Pro.
While the DT 1770 Pro came out in 2016, it’s still one of the most relevant headphones ever built. The Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro revolutionized the consumer sound systems when it came out two years ago, and even in 2018 it still sets the bar for quality and performance. The Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro paved the way for the DT 1990 Pro, and while they’re two generations apart, there’s no denying that the sound quality and premium feel of the DT 1770 Pro remains to be one of the best headphones money can buy in 2018.
We’re sure budding audiophiles will jump at the chance to get professional-class sound gear that outperforms a lot of options even in 2018 without having to shell out for professional-level prices. Initially at a $699 MSRP, the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro can be purchased at low discount prices, so expect to see this top-notch set of audio gear for possibly under $500.
Most Features: Sony WH-1000XM2
The Sony WH-1000XM2 is an excellent pair of wireless headphones that are built explicitly for audiophiles who want to take excellent sound quality with them on the go. Apart from its superb sound and top-notch build quality, the Sony WH-1000XM2 comes with great extras that can be especially appreciated by people like to stay on the move.
The Sony WH-1000XM2 is the successor of the well-loved MDR-1000X noise-canceling headphones, which was one of the highest-rated headphones of 2016. The Sony WH-1000XM2 is a refreshing new take on what made the MDR-1000X so great, featuring even better sound quality thanks to the latest technology, as well as an improved and longer-lasting battery. The WH-1000XM2 has also been revamped to offer enhanced noise-canceling features.
The Sony WH-1000XM2 is perfect for people who like to travel without wanting to compromise the quality of sound that they receive. With a plethora of features such as atmospheric pressure optimization, ambient sound control, and surround sound position control, the Sony WH-1000XM2 lets you better tailor your sound to your environment. It’s perfect for daily commutes or to bring with you on long flights where you either want to enjoy the best sound quality for your entertainment and leisure purposes, or get some professional-level sound work done while you’re on the go.
The Sony WH-1000XM2 delivers studio-quality class and sound performance but lets you take your sound with you so you’re not tied to a machine by troublesome wires. Another great decision on the Sony WH-1000XM2 is the option to stay wired if you want to, so you can get the most of out your headphones without compromising sound quality or worrying about a battery; although, with its 40-hour battery life, you probably won’t have to worry about its battery anyway.
The Son WH-1000XM2 is a great pair of headphones for on-the-go audiophiles, and while it has excellent noise-canceling features, it bags the spot for most feature-rich headphones of 2018. With a $350 MSRP, the Sony WH-1000XM2 combines sound quality with portability and feature-rich capability that makes it an extremely versatile choice for even the most critical of audiophiles.
Best Noise Cancelling: Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II
While they Sony WH-1000XM2 came incredibly close to being our top pick for the best noise canceling headphones money can buy, that honor goes to the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II. The Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II doesn’t come with as many bells and whistles as its direct competitor, the Sony WH-1000XM2, but with a lighter but still high-quality build and premium comfort hat surpassed the WH-1000XM2; the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II is the best noise canceling headphones money can buy in 2018.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II delivers on its promise and namesake. Excellent noise canceling design makes good on its promise of quiet, and the comfortable materials and design allow for premium comfort. The Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II does sacrifice a little bit of sound quality for its added comfort and quiet, but for the sheer premium of its noise-canceling and comfort and the minimal compromise in sound quality, we believe that it’s an excellent trade-off.
While it doesn’t come with as many features as the Sony WH-1000XM2, we never said it would take you back to the Stone Age. The Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II is still a top of the line pair of headphones, and the latest 2018 iteration comes with additional built-in Google Assistant connectivity – the first pair of headphones ever to provide this functionality.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II is the latest iteration and direct successor of Bose’s QuietComfort 35 Series, which, in 2016, was the critical competitor of the Sony MDR-1000X. This 2018, Sony and Bose are at it again with the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II and the Sony WH-1000XM2 being neck and neck in the competition for the best wireless noise-canceling headphones money can buy. The Sony WH-1000XM2 had great features that enhanced the sound experience when on-the-go, but overall, the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II bags the prize for best noise canceling among all the high-end headphones we’ve listed.
Great sound, incredible noise-canceling, and a super light and comfortable premium feel come together in the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II to deliver one of the best sound experiences that can be afforded to consumers this 2018. At $349 MSRP, we’ll leave it up to you to decide between the Sony WH-1000XM2 and the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II. Either way, you’re going to get one of the best headphones money can buy.
Best Wireless: Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless
The Sony WH-1000XM2 and the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II are both excellent headphones, and both come with wireless capability. However, with their focus on noise-canceling and extra features, both headphones compromised a little bit regarding sound quality and experience. That’s why our pick for the best wireless headphones money can buy in 2018 is a piece of audio equipment that, despite being wireless and portable, compromises nothing regarding sound quality: the Sennheiser Momentum.
The Sennheiser Momentum, and its latest 2018 iteration, the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0, are our pick for the best wireless headphones money can buy. With their focus and dedication towards the best and latest in sound technology, Sennheiser masterfully crafted the Momentum 2.0 to deliver the best sound quality we’ve ever heard in a wireless model. While a lot of the competition have to sacrifice quite a bit of sound quality to achieve wireless capability, the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 optimizes connectivity, reducing the compromise it has to make to deliver top-notch sound over a wireless connection.
It doesn’t have a lot of features, but in our opinion, it doesn’t need it. The Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 sets itself apart from the other wireless headphones on this list by delivering a sheer sound experience that is unprecedented in wireless headphones. It doesn’t have best-in-class noise cancellation, but the noise-cancellation on the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 is serviceable. Packing an excellent battery life, and a visually pleasing and beautiful aesthetic, the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 lets you take your prized high-fidelity sound collection with you on the go and look good doing it.
At $499 MSRP, you’re paying a premium or the better sound quality over wireless that the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 provides, and since this is the list of the best headphones money can buy, the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 deserves the title of best wireless headphones. Excellent build quality and ultra-fashionable design make the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 a great pick for fashionable audiophiles who are willing to forgo extra features for unparalleled sound over wireless.
Splurge Pick: Sennheiser HD800
Here it is, the splurge pick: the best-sounding, most beautifully-balanced, feature-rich, dreamily-comfortable and most-expensive pair of headphones ever built for the consumer market – the Sennheiser HD800.
These headphones are unparalleled. They are the absolute best headphones money can buy. The sound experience on the Sennheiser HD800 is the best you can get on the planet from consumer headphones, with an exquisitely superb sound that is both balanced and detailed. And I’ve used this phrase before, but I don’t exaggerate when I say that the feel and comfort of the Sennheiser HD800 is a pure, unadulterated premium.
Of course, to get the most of out of these headphones, you’d have to invest in better audio equipment all around, from high-end sound cards to studio-class gear, but for the audiophile who wants the best of the best, without compromise or reservation, then the Sennheiser HD800 is undeniably the best headphones money can buy in 2018.
The latest 2018 iteration of the Sennheiser HD800 can net you up to $2,500 MSRP, but the version released in earlier years can go as low as $1000. The Sennheiser HD800 isn’t for everyone, and we can’t with good conscience recommend it to anyone but the most discerning of audiophiles. But if you live and breathe for the best sound experience money can buy, then by all means, break the bank – the Sennheiser HD800 is worth every penny.